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Cork, Ireland
An Irish based alternative music blog. Music news, gigs, live reviews, album reviews... You'll find them here. If you want anything featured or removed, please shout. I hope you'll discover something new to love on this little experiment of mine. Currently editing the Music Section of the UCC Express and contributing to Motley magazine on campus, as well as writing for PopCultureMonster and 4FortyFour. Always looking for new projects so please get in touch if interested. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Album Reviews: The National "High Violet"

Yesterday saw the release of one of the most hotly anticipated alternative rock albums of this year in Ireland. High Violet will be in stores in the UK on Monday and the US on Tuesday, but Ireland have struck lucky with this one. Now many will have already heard the album in full as it was streamed over a 5 day period on the New York Times website, while the tracks Terrible Love, Afraid of Everyone and Bloodbuzz Ohio have been cropping up all over the place since they were played on various tv shows and released via the band's website.

Reviews have been almost universally positive so far - and understandably so.

The album opens with the shaky opening bars of Terrible Love. Gradually this track evolves into typical National territory with the familiar big feeling the band often have in their songs.

Track 2, Sorrow, is the weakest on the album in my opinion - not necessarily a bad thing. Every album has to have a low point, but this track just didn't grab my attention in the same manner as the rest.

Tracks 3 and 4, Anyone's Ghost and Little Faith are fantastic. Two real gems. Slow burning and beautiful...

Difficulty arises when trying to discuss the next batch of tracks. I once read that tracks 2-7 on Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was the finest sequence of tracks ever recorded.... I would argue that tracks 5-11 on High Violet to top that.

Afraid of Everyone and Bloodbuzz Ohio are already VERY familiar to most people - they were both released as free downloads via the band's website and have cropped up on radio shows left, right and centre. Two huge tracks - the National at their anthemic best.*

In Lemonworld, Conversation 16 and Runaway, we have three amazing songs. Just so beautiful. Matt Berninger's lyrics and vocals have rarely been better, while the brothers Dessner and Devendorf are on sublime form.

The album comes to it's close with the absolutely stunning duo of England and Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. Now THIS is the National at their best. Simply glorious. Anthemic, yet intimate. This is a band at the very peak of their powers.

It was never going to be easy to top Boxer and Alligator, yet they have managed to at least equal that level of class. In Afraid of Everyone, Bloodbuzz Ohio, England and the album's closer, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, the National have written four tracks that have set the bar so very high. Let's just hope it's not too high!

These songs are screaming out for a festival arena - luckily the band come to Stradbally to play the Electric Picnic in September. I'd be happy to pay the full ticket price to watch the National play High Violet over and over again - it is THAT good.

A career high? Perhaps - though it is hard to tell when a band are on such form. Each of their last three albums has been of a standard that many bands spend an entire career trying to achieve just once, let alone three consecutive times. The album is similar to the band's earlier work in that much of its strength lies in the treasures you discover with repeated plays - a lyric that you missed the first time, the subtle building bars - or in these cases, the guest appearances from Sufjan Stevens and Justin Vernon.

High Violet is an album of tremendous beauty - big and bold, though it feels like Beninger, the Dessners and the Devendorfs are sitting in your front room playing it just for you. It begs to be played loud - and somehow still retains it's gorgeous subtlety when you do.


The National; High Violet: 9.5/10.

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