Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The National - High Violet

The National is a band that I know critics love but I hadn't really heard much of before I decided to buy their new album. It turned out to be worth the risk, as I enjoyed almost everything about it. Since I'm godawful at describing music, it's hard to say what makes them different from a lot of other current bands, but there's just something so mature and well-formed about their sound that it seems like they could make any idea listenable. There's no guitar solos or freakouts or anything distracting from the quality of the song writing, yet it still seems like they're reaching all of their potential every time.

I think the band's strongest asset is their singer. Sometimes the guy saying all the words is someone I merely appreciate or even just tolerate, but Matt Berninger's almost impossibly pleasing baritone seems key to their sound and keeps the whole thing together. Not much about the instrumentation really sticks out, but both pairs of brothers play more than competently and work well together. The album kicks off with "Terrible Love", a surprisingly affecting song that sets the tone for the whole album, and is followed by a bunch of great songs. Some standouts are "Anyone's Ghost", "Afraid of Everyone", the single "Bloodbuzz Ohio", and the curious but memorable "Conversation 16". Actually, those aren't necessarily the best songs, just the ones with the most easily remembered hooks because I am shallow. Really, every song is good. I haven't gotten very much new music this year, but what I have has been well chosen.

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