It took me a while to pick up The National’s High Violet. Not because I didn’t want to hear it, just because I didn’t get around to picking it up. I wasn’t a fan of Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers but I thought Box was an incredible record. High Violet falls somewhere in between. I’m not madly in love with High Violet.
High Violet feels sad but not in a good way. And honestly, I know it’s supposed to be sad. The songs are sad lyrically and the movement of the record has a depressed undertone. But it’s not sad in a compelling way, not to my ears anyway. It doesn’t make me hate the album, but I don’t love it.
Matt Berninger’s vocals are a steady monotone, as they normally are, but he’s so solid and so monotone that where pain and sadness would be conveyed, it gets lost. Musically, High Violet is very low key. It doesn’t have the dramatic shifts that Boxer had. It’s not as diverse or interesting. Sonically, it’s very locked into a theme and makes it a much less compelling listening experience.
That is until late in the record. Conversation 16 is actually a really great song and it was the first time while listening to the record I stopped and just listened to the song. England, although similar to the rest of the album, instrumentally has some interesting moments going on. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, the albums closing track, is like the reverse of the albums opener Terrible Love. It’s still low key and lo-fi, but it has an upbeat tinge to it, just enough of a shift in dynamics to be a good song.
High Violet will be making a lot of people’s best of lists. But it just wasn’t that interesting or compelling to me.