The National: High Violet (4AD)

 |   |  <1 min read

The National: Runaway
The National: High Violet (4AD)

Frankly, I want to like the National more, but their almost willfully/arty obscurantism is often off-putting. The DVD which came with their extended EP A Skin/A Night, The Virginia EP seemed like an attempt at creating depth in something which was inherently ordinary.

And I feel a little the same about this album: the all-in production attempts to carry the weaker material and the emotionally distant delivery by Matt Berninger lets the stronger material slip away into a kind of studied ennui.

A piano ballad as simple as Little Faith gets lost in the morass of drums and guitars and strings which are added; and distorted guitars do not necessarily make for a sense of discomfort. Sometimes (as on Afraid of Everyone) they are just annoying. At times you sense that in their attempt to distance their inherent musicality from the whole Coldplay/U2 ballad/alt.rock end of the spectrum (see Sorrow) they have fled too far in the other direction.

Yet every now and again here some terrific songs peek out (Lemonworld, Runaway, the mysterious Conversation 16, the languid England) almost tentatively, and at that point I -- and maybe you? -- like the National more. 

Share It

Your Comments

Tim - Jun 22, 2010

Sounds like I like The National more than you Graham but was nevertheless a bit disappointed with this after the wonderful "Boxer". The production seems a bit muddy too. I trust that despite your misgivings you would agree the Dessner bothers did a pretty nice job selecting tunes for"Dark Was the Night"

Jeremy - Jun 23, 2010

So disappointing after previous albums. Assumed that, even with the quality of The Virginia EP and their contributions to Dark Was The Night, they would have something up their sleeve for this album. But the problem is mostly in the mix and orchestration isn't it. Agree with Graham that sometimes a song will rise above the murk (eg Bloodbuzz, England), but mostly they're just buried. However if they return to NZ, I'll be first in line - if their 2008 show was anything to go by then they will breathe life into these songs on-stage.

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Lightning Dust: Lightning Dust (PopFrenzy/Rhythmethod)

Lightning Dust: Lightning Dust (PopFrenzy/Rhythmethod)

Said it before, will say it again: when albums come from PopFrenzy they rise to the top of the heap, just on the basis of previous albums from the label (the Clientele, Camera Obscura) being so... > Read more

Elliott Smith: An Introduction to Elliott Smith (Kill Rock Stars/Southbound)

Elliott Smith: An Introduction to Elliott Smith (Kill Rock Stars/Southbound)

It seems curious that the intelligent, melodic and very dead Elliott Smith hasn't engendered a cult following: his albums were consistently good and the circumstances of his death (if it was... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Dennis Bovell: Mek It Run (Pressure Sounds)

Dennis Bovell: Mek It Run (Pressure Sounds)

For a very long time from the mid Seventies bassist/producer Dennis Bovell was the go-to guy when British artists wanted an authentic deep dub sound. His work with poet Linton Kewsi Johnson has... > Read more

BESSIE SMITH: The Empress of the Blues -- and jazz? (1991)

BESSIE SMITH: The Empress of the Blues -- and jazz? (1991)

It wasn’t just because he discovered Bessie Smith that Columbia executive John Hammond sank money into recording her in 1933 when her money was all gone. Columbia was all but bankrupt and... > Read more