High Violet (Expanded Edition)

The National


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2010, 4AD Records

This new EXPANDED EDITION comes with a bonus disc, featuring the following tracks: "Terrible Love (Alternate Version)," "Wake Up You Saints," "You Were a Kindness," "Walk Off," "Sin-Eaters," "Bloodbuzz Ohio (Live on KCMP)," "Anyone's Ghost (Live at BAM)" and "England (Live at Bam)"!

'While Berninger's command of his instrument continues to deepen and occasionally surprise - here he sings "Didn't wanna be your ghost / Didn't wanna be anyone's ghost" with the truculence of a bowed-head kid kicking at the gravel, and "But I won't be no runaway, 'cuz I won't run" with a perfect blend of fatigue and resolve - the whole band displays that kind of quiet mastery. While Aaron and Bryce Dessner's guitars are less aggressive than ever on High Violet (there's no "Abel"s or "Mr. November"s here, not even a "Mistaken for Strangers"), they're still all over the record, from the malfunctioning-radio surges of the beginning of "Terrible Love" on down. Whether it's the plangent leads of "Anyone's Ghost" or the steady, distorted strum of "Lemonworld", the National continue to be the world's least likely great guitar band. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Scott and Bryan Devendorf continue to lend these quiet, almost stately songs a deceptively deep sense of propulsion, which is part of the reason why such a relentlessly mid-tempo set of songs can spring to life in such varied and lively ways. In a sense, Bryan Devendorf's drumming is a microcosm of the National's music. Both band and drummer play with the kind of casual virtuosity that can sound like they're really not doing anything new or interesting; but on closer inspection, what makes Devendorf and the National so compelling is the way they sneak in all sorts of interesting nuances and complexities into what seems so straightforward at first. Listen to Devendorf's drums on a song like "Conversation 16" or the ostensibly balladic "Sorrow" and it becomes clear that this is a band that's increasingly at ease with its now-signature mix of the skittish and the comforting, the reassuring and the despairing . . . For years now the National have been singing about the city and wine and girls and maybe growing up a little, and if Boxer saw them embracing the bittersweet sting of maturity and nostalgia, High Violet follows hard on its heels with a set of songs about New York and Ohio, about the terrible, undertow pull of a (gasp) settled, normal life, about being a little in love with melancholy but also being self-aware enough to realize that love is a little ridiculous and self-destructive. Becoming an adult is a slow processes that involves thinking that you're not a certain kind of person, and then waking up one day and realizing that yeah, you are; recently, National songs have been about coming to terms with that as much as anything else . . . High Violet summons up perfectly and terribly the sneaking suspicion you start getting in your 20s that possibilities are closing off, that your life might not turn out the way you wanted it to, and that there's probably no-one else to blame but yourself. For years, loving the National's music has often meant reveling in the twinge of pain that comes when someone else manages to perfectly pin down and dissect a little piece of your psyche, which is why fans can get so inarticulate when trying to talk about what's great about the band. As Felix Mendelssohn said, "The thoughts that are expressed to me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite." High Violet's greatness, above beyond the fact that it's a gorgeously arranged and performed set of songs of surprising tensile strength and grace, is that it rests its finger on some uncomfortably relevant truths about life after you no longer have the mental, physical, social or emotional wherewithal to spend every night at the bar and leaving the Silver City for somewhere quieter starts seeming like a good move. Anyone who loves this record probably has a very exact idea of how it touches on their own life, but most of us probably aren't going to want to share.' - Ian Mathers / Pop Matters


Disc 1 Disc 2
1 Terrible Love
2 Sorrow
3 Anyone's Ghost
4 Little Faith
5 Afraid of Everyone
6 Bloodbuzz Ohio
7 Lemonworld
8 Runaway
9 Conversation 16
10 England
11 Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

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