Monday, May 9, 2011

Album of the Year: 2010 - #9

The National - High Violet

Where Arcade Fire fell a bit short with The Suburbs, The National pick up the slack and then some. On High Violet, The National manage to do something that many bands (particularly in the indie rock scene) attempt, but very few are able to execute - lamenting the fate of your average, middle-class citizen. So many bands attempt this and come off feeling overly angsty and grating or, perhaps even worse, seem to not be entirely in earnest. The lyrics are beautifully written and Berninger's melancholy baritone infuses them with a sense of disillusionment and gravitas that far exceeds the majority of the band's peers. "With my kid on my shoulders I try / Not to hurt anybody out loud / But I don't have the drugs to sort / I don't have the drugs to sort it out" - I can't think of many other bands out there that could pull this lyric off, but The National manage to build a very emotional song around this chorus.

As depressed as the voice of this album is, the songs are also extremely catchy. With as good as the lyrics and vocal performance are, it would be easy to look right past the work the rest of the band has put in here. While it is true that the other members take a backseat to the singer most of the time, it is also true that the drums are what actually make many of these tracks catchy and the guitar/piano/strings/horns perfectly set the mood for the lyrics to have the impact that they do. Certainly the most relatable album to crack the top ten - this is still another album that will not yield up its fruits easily, a bit of investment is required from the listener to unwrap the full experience.

Best Track: Afraid of Everyone
Rating: 9/10

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