Everyday Albums of 2010, The National, High Violet

Everyday Albums is a series of album reviews wherein the album could be listened to everyday. This series will examine the best of those from 2010.

When The National hit my radar, it was 2007 and they were getting all sorts of buzz for their Boxer release.  It was one of my favorite albums of that year. Rumors of a new The National album had been going around for a while, but when High Violet officially hit stores in May, it couldn’t have been a better payoff of anticipation.  As expected, High Violet continues the exploration of the darker side of emotions, the good kind and the bad kind, as The National have done so well in the past.
The danger would be to label The National as predictably dark.  That would be underestimating the sneaky tones of hope that litter the songs.  Don’t let the baritone fool you. The deceptive lyrics will do that for you.
The opening track is “Terrible Love” which in title alone tells you where it’s going.  I’m not a big lyrical analysis guy, but it seems like “Terrible Love” is taking us to a place where the right thing is to not fall in love.

“But I won’t follow you into the rabbit hole. I said I would, but then I saw your shivered bones. They didn’t want me to.”

Another track that stands out is “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” This was the song that was the pre-release single that hit their site in March, months before it the album would be released. Dark in its tone, it has a driving rhythm that coupled with the title makes me think back to driving through Ohio. The drums and rising brass and breaks in rhythm are superb.

“I still owe money to the money to the money I owe. I never thought about love when I thought about home. I still owe money to the money to the money I owe. The floors are falling out from everybody I know.”

“Conversation 16” is about marriage. I know this because Matt Berninger told the audience at the Austin City Limits Festival. When you have that context, the lyrics get a little darker. Whereas before a song where the chorus is repeated “I was afraid I’d eat your brains” was dark enough, but the rattle of going through very familiar things that a couple would discuss shows a perspective that a marriage can become rather mundane when looked at from the outside.

“We belong in a movie, try to hold it together ’til our friends are gone, we should swim in a fountain, don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

Still when I hear “England” it resonates with something in me. The craftsmanship of the song is brilliant, it builds on itself in an unconventional way. The climax of the song is repeating a chorus as the music builds around Berninger’s voice.

“You must be somewhere in London, you must be loving your life in the rain, you must be somewhere in London, walking Abbey Lane. I don’t even think to make, I don’t even think to make, I don’t even think to make corrections.”

High Violet is available in the standard and expanded edition from Amazonmp3.com and for a limited time, the whole album can be downloaded for $1.99.

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