Boomkat Product Review:
*Special edition including 8 extra tracks* In a music industry that's becoming increasingly fixated on overnight, flavour-of-the-month success stories and general disposability, it can only be regarded as a great positive that The National are a band whose appeal continues to grow after some ten years of recording together.
Despite not being the fresh-faced pups normally required to cause such a stir, High Violet is one of 2010's most talked about and anticipated albums, following on from the massively acclaimed Alligator (2005) and Boxer (2007). The lead-up single 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' previewed the impressive sense of scale this band aim for, and subtly, throughout High Violet they adorn their already very expressive core sound with orchestration (some of which is arranged by Nico Muhly) and big-name guest spots from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Richie Reed Parry of Arcade Fire fame.
None of this detracts or distracts from the continuity and general magnificence of the album, which seems to serve up highlight after highlight: if opener 'Terrible Love' sets the bar awfully high as a first track, 'Sorrow' and the stunning 'Anyone's Ghost' see the standard rising ever higher - seldom has an album's opening fifteen minutes so persistently threatened to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. In a sense - and I urge you not to be put off by such statements - The National are the very thing that Coldplay would probably most love to be. Here is a band unafraid of making big, emotive, ambitious music that treats its audience to grand choruses and guitars that stay just the right side of stadium-rock, all the while preserving a just-enigmatic-enough indie persona so as not to stray into outright schmaltz.
If all that sounds a tad calculated, well it's probably not an entirely fair portrait of The National, but somehow they do manage to pull off the trick of sounding like a band for all people at all times in a way that steers clear of wince-inducing cliche or populist hysterics. Whilst coming across as eminently intelligent and credible, you could imagine festival circuit live renderings of 'Conversation 16' and 'England' making U2 sound like Thee Oh Sees. There's considerable depth behind all this cosmetic bombast, however, and High Violet quickly proves itself worthy of the not inconsiderable press attention that has already been afforded it. This is one of the big, 'event' albums of the 2010, and actually, most likely it'll also prove to be one of the year's finest.