I was totally pumped for this album to come out after listening to the tracks that preceded it, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. It took me a few listens to really fall in love with it, but that’s the case for any really good record: each time you take it in, you find something new that you like.
High Violet is a wonderful set of songs in the band’s signature style, ranging from the despair-laden ‘Sorrow’ to the ringing anthem of ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio‘. I recall hearing the band comment a while ago that “this is not a happy record,” or something to that effect, and it’s true. You won’t find anything remotely like ‘Fake Empire’; Berninger doesn’t even get the chance to tear off on a ‘November’-esque scream track. This effort is more controlled, and its subject matter appreciably darker than that of its predecessors.
We’ve already talked about how much I love ‘Terrible Love’ and despite the album cut not being my favorite it does not disappoint in opening the record. That said, ‘Ohio’ might be the strongest, most powerful piece of music on the album. It is the peak that the first five tracks build to, and that which the next five tracks spend recovering from.
A surprise for me was ‘Conversation 16’, the urgency and pace of the track wakes you up from the rather involved tracks in ‘Lemonworld’ and ‘Runaway.’ One of my favorite moments of the entire record is the drum riff going into the first iteration of the chorus, followed by the lyric “I’m a confident liar…” The timing of the song as well as strange content of the chorus really shines.
At the end of the day, there’s not a bad track on the album. The National has taken their craft to a new level, creating less frantic, more textured songs than we saw on on Boxer, harnessing that raw energy into something more complex and mature.