Like another of the US indie heavy weights, Arcade Fire, The National stand alone in the kind of music they make. Their songs are
instantly recognisable as their own.
Rather than springing from – or conforming to – any
particular scene, the band defy generic limitations, making a virtue of idiosyncrasies and celebrating their uniqueness.
They’ve been making genuinely superb albums since
2005’s ‘Alligator’ (their third), gradually gaining commercial momentum without losing credibility,
and in 2010 ‘High Violet’ cemented much wider-reaching success for the group.
It’s because ‘High Violet’ has no weak links – no temptation to reach for the skip button.
It’s an album that can be listened to in its entirety as a standalone, coherent whole, while the rich orchestration of the music places it high above
the limitations of dumb guitar‘n‘drums stodginess. Opener ‘Terrible Love’ pitches you into the whirlwind,
building to a climax of drama and emotional intensity, and for the rest
of the album there’s no let-up.
As much as anything, it’s a showcase for the intelligent, soul-baring lyrics and rich, deep vocals of their awkwardly disposed frontman Matt Berninger.
Upon its release in the spring, we dizzyingly eulogised about ‘High Violet’; its tumultuous climaxes; its cathartic releases; its
With the passage of this time, these gushes of praise remain
The album still has the capacity
to provoke sorrow, joy and a wordless, allenveloping emotional liberation, and The National achieve this without recourse to melodrama or bombast: just quietly powerful, assured songwriting. It is a majestic piece of
“We’ve never been a heavy band or a band who you can go,
‘these guys are nu-rave’, and we never fitted into the emo thing
first time,” says Walter, “and I think it’s more important than
ever to hold onto your identity and nurture that integrity.
All we can do is control the music and the effort we put into it.
Once you’ve done that, all you can do is just let it go.”
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