31 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2010
I really want to like this band. But, like trying to get through a novel everyone else likes that you can't quite get into, I keep putting the book down. Or, in this case, can't quite make it through an entire song on my iPod without rolling my eyes and moving on. It's frustrating, because it feels lonely being bored by The National. And admittedly, this isn't quite like me, I'm open to new music, especially intelligent indie rock; and I'm an album guy, not a song-by-song iTunes addict. But...
But does no one else think The National sounds like Interpol with less hooks, trudging through even more molasses? They sound like everything I dislike about Wilco, Band of Horses, and Fleet Foxes shaken up in a blender and poured out onto a Brooklyn yard sale. Maybe it's Matt Berninger's super serious baritone which irritates the heck out of me and the fact that the record feels too lived in, worked over, thought out, poeticized. It drones and drones, and every song sounds the same to me.
Maybe I just like my music to create genuine atmosphere and emotion (Neutral Milk Hotel, The Shins, Belle and Sebastian) or just have fun (Animal Collective, MGMT, New Pornographers) but I get frustrated when there is so much hype surrounding something so, well, banal. And Conor Oberst isn't even involved!
There has been more preening substance devoted to this album (philosophical musings in Pitchfork, NY Times, etc.) than I think it deserves. The articles written about this album are more interesting than the album itself. Sometimes hype is, after all, warranted. Just not here. There is a haunting prettiness that invades the music at times courtesy of all the bearded brothers involved in this band who play their instruments well, but it's just too self-important to me, the soundtrack to a "No Country for Old Men" type movie where your focus is meant to shift and waver, to visuals, to words, to a language outside of itself.
"High Violet", though accomplished, doesn't hold my focus.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2011
2.5 stars, actually.
The highpoint of this album is the excellent and catchy song "Bloodbuzz" and, to a much lesser extent, the songs immediately before and after it. The opening song is not so bad, either, but neither is it all that great. The rest of the album is just plain banal---I don't get what all the hype is about. The plentitude of 5-star reviews on here is ridiculous. You listen to this 2 or 3 times, and then that's about it, nothing really makes a lasting impression, and you're never or at least rarely ever going to listen to this again because there just isn't that much of anything terribly profound or novel here.
I like the lead singer's deadpan voice, strongly reminiscent of Stephen Merritt. This to me is a strength of the band--although this too can and does get slightly boring by the end of the whole thing, given the fact that each song is at the same droning tempo. Some drone is good; even a lot of drone can be good if you play it right; however, all drone, not so good.
These guys are obviously very well-practiced with their instruments, as attested to by the fact that they can make a guitar sound like a frenetic bumblebee during the closing of "bloodbuzz." But the often plodding, predictable melodies smack of an inferior version of Interpol due to their general dearth of catchy, unpredictable riffs. There is nothing unpredictable in this music: listening to it for the first time, one can often predict exactly where the melody is going to predictably go even before it gets there, and this is a recipe for audio boredom. It's as though these guys are very accomplished musicians, but not very innately talented tunesmiths. It is easy to get distracted from this music. It isn't bad at all; it is just that there is not that much that is all that terribly compelling about it--least of all the lyrics, which are often trite or weirdly incongruous, even for the best song here. The lyrics are just not all that meaningful, and not all that memorable, though you get the impression that the lyricist really really wants them to be.
I just don't get what all the hype is about here. I think this is a case of the Emperor has no clothes, or at least, the clothes aren't all that great like everybody says.
I used to buy a lot of music, but as I get on in life I don't buy so much anymore. I bought this because I heard the excellent song "Bloodbuzz" and then I read all the gushing, raving, worshipful reviews and I thought there would likely contain some other songs on the CD that would be nearly as good as "Bloodbuzz," but unfortunately the dropoff from best song to second-best song is somewhat steep here. If you've been reading the blown-out-of-proportion reviews here on Amazon and are considering buying this, you'd better temper your expectations.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2011
The unrelenting miserable overtones on this album killed it for me. I know you're not listening to the National to get happy, but there was not a single upbeat tune on the entire disc. It's all slow, there is no variety in tempo from song to song and it all just blurred into a single slushy trip through the doldrums. I'm a huge fan of Cherry Tree, Alligator, and Boxer so I was extremely excited to get some new material from these guys...High Violet didn't live up to expectations. On all of their other CD's there are at least couple of songs that pick up the pace (Lit Up, Able, Mr. November, Mistaken for Strangers, Squalor Victoria, etc) and give you some relief from what would otherwise be a very slow overall feel to the album. High Violet offers no such relief.
The thing that made me stop trying to love this album was seeing them perform it live. They played a great mix of the new material and the old material and without fail, when one of the new songs came up attention moved away from the stage for a lot of people in the crowd. They went to go get drinks, turned and talked to friends etc. I found myself doing the same.
Ultimately High Violet won't get much playtime by me. However, I have to say that I'm still very eagerly awaiting their next effort.
Oh, and they are AMAZING live! They played Fake Empire first and honestly it was so good that if they walked off stage right then I still would have been happy to see that one song. Go see them if you can.
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2011
Saw this group on Austin City Limits and was drawn to their music -- a bit unusual for a 67-year old, conservative man with eclectic musical taste. I particulary like "Squalor Victoria" and "About Today", neither of which is here.
On the jacket, it states that the first two songs were recorded in a basement. The sound reproduction supports that.
I have never sent a CD back for a refund and probably won't do it this time -- but, I've certainly considered doing just that.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2011
When I ordered this item I knew it was used. When I order from Amazon I usually have trusted the used items by their percentages. This album was rated at a 98%. But when I received the album in the mail, I took it out of the packaging only to find that the seller had bought the album or stole the from the Phoenix Public Library. What I saw was a CD case that had a slip of paper for a cover with a very grainy picture of the album art. The library codes and text that had been printed on it when it sat on the shelf in Phoenix were scribbled out with a sharpie! A very poor presentation. The inside of the case was also of very poor quality. It was very similar to a DVD case, there was a button in the middle to release the CD. But this button was the only thing holding the CD in place, leaving it very loose. And in transit, the package was being thrown from mail box to truck to truck to truck, allowing the CD to wobble all over the place. The CD itself has a few scratches on it, and still has library stickers on it. In my opinion, a CD from a library with a printed cover should not have a 98% rating. I paid $10.19 for this album. I would never have paid this much if I had seen it on a shelf. I would probably paid at most $4.99. This was an item of low quality, not 98%.
4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2010
I don't get the overwhelming adulation for this group. Their songs are not hateful, but they're nothing all that special either. The delivery of the lead singer is my main problem. No emotion, no passion in his voice, as if he's overdosed with Prozac or some mood-leveling drug. I've tried multiple listens to see what the fuss is about, but it's just beyond me.
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2012
Or coffee or any other beverage for the matter. I found the band to be great but I can't stand the lead singers voice. It's like somebody trying to sing like Joy Division over completely wrong music.
3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
While I own and enjoy a couple of other outings by The National, the release of High Violet finds the band adrift. The CD just kind of goes nowhere until Afraid of Everyone and Bloodbuzz Ohio. Then it sinks back into the doldrums for most of the remainder of the album, the one remaining bright spot being Conversation 16. One has to ask whether the band is running out of ideas. I like a lot of different kinds of music, but the hype that greeted this is surely inflated. My suggestion to anyone considering buying High Violet is to try and hear it first. Liking their previous albums is no guarantee you'll like this.