Fifth album yields strongest songs
Issue date: 5/7/10 Section: Arts & Entertainment
The album's opener "Terrible Love" begins with a lo-fi, cloudy guitar line, courtesy of twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner. Brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf quickly add a strong bass and drum line to the palette and finally, front man Matt Berninger enters in with his distinct baritone voice to finish the mix. For four and a half minutes, "Terrible Love" escalates; the drums pound and the guitars grow more unrestrained before the song comes to its sudden conclusion.
Bryan Devendorf once again demonstrates his ability to drive the band with brilliant drumbeats, though he is careful not to overshadow the rest of the group. Part of what makes The National so great is their attention to detail: throughout "High Violet," they perfectly add the right amount of layers to their music without making it sound cluttered. The members blend their talents to craft the ultimate atmosphere over which Berninger adds the perfect words. His consistently remarkable lyrics read more like cinematic vignettes than conventional pop songs. The lyrics are filled with references to lost love and flawed relationships with water imagery. On "High Violet," the band employs fellow Brooklyn resident and friend Sufjan Stevens to sing background vocals on the eerie track "Afraid of Everyone." The fantastic "England" stands out as the longest track on the album: the song starts off subtle and then slowly builds upon itself until it finally takes off with Devendorf transforming the tone with some of his best drumming on the album. Berninger's voice picks up as he repeats the wonderfully cryptic line "Afraid of the house/stay the night with the sinners because they're desperate to entertain."
The album ends with what is arguably one of the strongest songs the band has released: "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks." The song includes Berninger echoing the beautiful phrase "All the very best of us/string ourselves up for love" overtop prolific strings - one of the more reassuring sentiments on the album.
The National always appear to be striving for perfection in the work they release and "High Violet" certainly lives up to the artistic success of "Boxer." With each debut, they seem to be building upon their previous achievements, while never compromising their artistic integrity.
The National will play back-to-back shows at the Electric Factory June 5 and 6 to support the release of "High Violet."