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

Eva Prowse: Humid Nights (evaprowse.co.nz/Aeroplane)

Eva Prowse: Humid Nights (evaprowse.co.nz/Aeroplane)

Wellington singer-songwriter Prowse's debut album I Can't Keep Secrets made Elsewhere's best of the year list in 2010 and at that time we noted her performances with Fly My Pretties, her... > Read more

Paddy Burgin and the Wooden Box Band: My Sweet Town (PB)

Paddy Burgin and the Wooden Box Band: My Sweet Town (PB)

Internationally successful guitar maker by day and guitarist by night, Wellington's Paddy Burgin last year got this very classy package which comes with a beautifully presented booklet of lyrics... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE BARGAIN BUY: Various Artists; 100 Hits, Garage and Bassline

THE BARGAIN BUY: Various Artists; 100 Hits, Garage and Bassline

Those who know their garage and bassline better than Elsewhere -- and there will many, many in that category -- will doubtless pull this collection apart for its omissions. But frankly 100... > Read more

MILES DAVIS AND QUINCY JONES AT MONTREUX: The circle is unbroken

MILES DAVIS AND QUINCY JONES AT MONTREUX: The circle is unbroken

It was emblematic of the soul rebel career of Miles Davis that in his final years he was painting as much as he was playing, had a cameo spot in a movie (Dingo) playing a pre-electric period... > Read more