While awaiting for proper exposure to The National’s fifth studio album, I trawled the internet looking for an insight into what I might be able to expect. While doing so I stumbled across a YouTube comment, of all things, which summed up this band for me. There, typed in below a fuzzy, imperfect version of ‘High Violet’ opener ‘Terrible Love’, were the words “I don’t think The National are capable of? writing a song that isn’t completely breathtaking”. So very true.
Following two near-perfect albums, ‘High Violet’ maintains their record for creating songs of understated, modest, and yes, breathtaking beauty. And though first impressions of this new long player are that it sounds rather like last album ‘Boxer’ – with ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ and ‘Anyone’s Ghost’ particularly similar in sound to their 2007 work – as with any of The National’s output, first impressions count for nothing.
It’s the more subtle details, heard first in the subconscious, that make their work so remarkable. Take a song like ‘Little Faith’, yes there’s the similar line of dark, contemplation, coy, clean guitar and digitally perfect drumming, but there’s something else in there too, which your heart knows to love long before your brain can work out exactly what is going on. Looking out for subtleties also makes you realise that this album contains the band’s boldest moment to date, the track ‘England’, which looks to past collaborator Sufjan Stevens for influence, building to an epic crescendo.
An album to adore then. Though it may take six months to work out why. TM