In May of 2010, the National released their fifth record, High Violet. There are days where this is my favorite album of all time, but most days it sits comfortably in the second-favorite slot. I didn’t even realize it was the tenth anniversary until they began advertising limited-edition merchandise on their Instagram, even though I was fully aware of the album coming out in 2010.
I was much too young to appreciate the National at the time of this release, or appreciate any music with substance for that matter. I have vivid memories of hearing the song “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” which is on High Violet, in the car and disliking it. Now, though, it might be favorite song in the National’s entire discography. Matt Berninger is one of my favorite singers and lyricists ever, and his line “I still owe money to the money to the money I owe” resonates deeply with any adult who has ever experienced financial trouble, and resonates deeply with me in a way that informs me of the moneyless days I have to look forward to.
The band continues down the road that their previous album, Boxer, paved, with lush instrumentation and unique rhythms provided by their impeccable drummer Bryan Devendorf and his bass-playing brother Scott. Multi-instrumentalist twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner provide the best musical moments on the album, as with most of the band’s albums, with their chemistry and experience in music. Each song is so intricately written that you can get so wrapped focusing on one part that the song will be over before you have time to examine another.
I recommend this album to anyone who has ever enjoyed listening to a record all the way through and really absorbing every aspect of it. It’s too easy to listen to it over and over again, and for me it stands separately from the rest of the band’s catalog. It is a grandiose, meticulous, sharply-honed record where no two songs sound the same. People talk about albums, songs, or artists being synonymous with seasons, and I feel as though this album can be played any time of year. High Violet does not give a listener time to stop thinking deep, meaningful thoughts throughout the experience, and that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable. The melancholy tune “Little Faith” can put someone deep in their feels, and it’s immediately followed by the up-tempo, but anxious, “Afraid of Everyone,” which was one of the first National tracks I ever fell in love with.
For me, the National transcend common genre labels and comparisons that music journalists are so wont to make. There has been, and never will be, another band that can develop a sound so signature and personal, as the National have. They have achieved every musician’s dream, which is to sound solely like themselves. No comparison could do this band, and their perfect record, justice. I thought about recommending some key songs from High Violet for readers to check out, but anyone interested should just give the whole album a listen. And then another one. Let me know what you think at the email listed below.
Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]