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High Violet

4.5 out of 5 stars 176 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 11, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

High Violet, the new full-length record by the National, is a nervy, melodic, explosive and beautiful set of songs that find the band at the height of their collaborative powers. The music is wide-ranging in its moods, by turns intimate and rough, expansive and spare, full of stark angles and atmosphere. Berninger's singing wild, half-broken, sly evokes a feeling of being haunted, by love, by paranoia, by something just out of reach. High Violet may be The National's most thematically twisted record to date but it somehow also manages to be their most infectious and immediate.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 11, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: 4ad Records
  • ASIN: B003BKF696
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,665 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This album is one that I find myself only putting on when I am able to listen to the whole thing. I'm not going to say I didn't love Boxer or Alligator, but both of those albums have tracks that outshine the overall sound. High Violet is the exact opposite to me. The songs present work better together than broken apart. That's not to say that the songs can't stand on their own, but the overall effect that the album has as a single cohesive unit is absolutely jaw dropping.
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
"High Violet" finds The National at a high point, poised to either find their way at last into the hearts and minds and stereos of Middle America, or to fall back--either into hipster obscurity in the bars and art galleries of Brooklyn, or hipster exile in the suburbs--and be mourned by their dedicated fans but unremembered by the public-at-large.

Ever since 2005's "Alligator" (or better yet, 2004's "Cherry Tree EP"), it's been clear to everyone who was actually paying attention that this is a band with the ambition, and more importantly, the skills to be the Next Big Thing. And yet they also have the canny hipster sense that it's unwise to look like you're actually trying. So this album finds them both writing anthemic choruses and mumbling them, crafting sharp tunes and sludging them up, and generally continuing to be infuriatingly fascinating.

The New York Times' recent glowing profile of the band--one could call it a puff piece, but this is a band that deserves puffing--alluded to the general critical sense that this is a band poised to make the musical equivalent of the Great American Novel. And while that's an accurate picture of their potential, it's still somewhat misleading. Their previous two works were like Bukowski set to music--they're edgy and darkly funny tales of urban alienation and angst and alcoholism, tremendously enjoyable, but still somewhat out of the mainstream. Whereas "High Violet" is more like Updike, with married-with-child lead singer Matt Berninger as Rabbit Angstrom, and a little extra angst on the side. He's settling uneasily into domesticity and starting to care about the things most people care about, but he's also trembling with fear, seeing danger around every corner. He promises us it isn't "Rabbit, Run.
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8 Comments 111 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Before I decided to buy this cd, I'd never heard of the National. Indeed, at first, I thought that I had read that there were only two band members. The National is a Brooklyn-based indie rock band formed in Cincinnati [hence "Ohio Blood Buzz"] in 1999. The band's lyrics are written and sung by Matt Berninger, a very low-key, but precise baritone. The rest of the band is composed of two pairs of brothers: Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf. Aaron plays guitar, bass and piano, Bryce plays guitar, Scott plays bass and guitar, and Bryan is the drummer - and a very fine drummer he is, indeed. Padma Newsome, from another band often adds strings, keyboards, and other instrumental layering. The National has an acclaimed indy history, though, after listening to High Violet, I found nothing of its caliber in the older albums, though they are good. Nothing to indicate the radical departure the group has taken.
The debut album, the eponymous The National was released in 2001 on Brassland Records, a label founded by band members Aaron and Bryce Dessner, among others. The 12 songs were an array of country/bar room/pop. I particularly liked "Beautiful Head", for its delicate roots orientation.
The National's second album, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, was released in 2003, and, like the previous album, was received favorably, though impact was not widespread.
In 2004, the band released an EP, Cherry Tree, which included the live favorite "About Today," as well as "All the Wine". The EP evoked further positive reaction, and its success landed them a successful tour.
Their 2005 album, Alligator, was met with much critical acclaim and featured highly in "Album of the Year" charts. Some reviews hailed it as one of the top records of the decade.
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13 Comments 66 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I love this disc, but it frustrates me that these guys have released an expaned edition of this disc so soon after its initial release. If they had this stuff ready before High Violet's release, why not release the expanded edition then? This is the kind of thing that alienates had core fans.
3 Comments 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Vinyl Verified Purchase
First and foremost, I've got to say that I love The National and I love the songs on this record. That said, the record itself was a huge disappointment. The mastering is highly compressed. All dynamics and most of the instruments, aside from the traditional guitar/bass/drums are completely drowned in the mix.

It's really sad because it's obvious that there is a wide range of instrumentation used and a lot of nuance put into the music and for the most part. The finished product sounds completely flat. At first I couldn't really believe what I was hearing. I thought that my stylus must have been damaged and it couldn't be tracking right. I pulled high violet off of my platter and put on OK Computer and the sound was rich, lush, dynamic and exciting.

If you love The National, don't let this dissuade you from buying this record. The songs are indeed great and I still spin the record regardless. If you're new to The National and you plan on playing this record on anything more sophisticated than an all-in-one big box stereo, don't be surprised when it comes out sounding like an itunes download playing through cheap ipod earbuds.

If I were in The National, I would be absolutely livid at the post-production botch job this record received. It's a real shame.
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