No. 3: The National – High Violet
Best of year lists suit The National. Their albums, with their determination to shun the immediate in favour of the eternal, have always been growers rather than showers. Even more so than the ever-faithful Boxer, High Violet repays the precious time you put into.
Emplored by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. to make a “pop record”, High Violet doesn’t quite get there (thankfully), but what it does do is open up the band’s sound. Anyone’s Ghost, Afraid of Everyone, Bloodbuzz Ohio and Conversation 16 are some of the most direct songs in the group’s now lengthy repertoire and sees them focussing on more traditional song structures than ever before.
As is now par for the course with a National release, it packs a hefty emotional punch. Tracks such as the gorgeous, naked Runaway and England – ‘famous angels never come through England’ – have had grown men weeping in the aisles on their recent victory lap of the UK. Whether you appreciate their music or not, you can’t argue with a band that make such a connection with their audience.
Now they are no longer music’s best kept secret it will be fascinating to see what comes next. Another lurch towards the mainstream? A retreat with a ‘challenging’ follow-up album? That is all for another day. For now all we can do is celebrate a beautiful record by a very important band.
Buy High Violet here