By Jason Grishkoff | May 27th, 2010
I’ve been listening to “High Violet” for a few weeks now, and I’m just not sure what kind of conclusion to make. I’ll start here: this album is mellow and depressing. I find it’s perfect for morning — not because I’m dreading the workday (how could I not look forward to work at Google?), but rather because it isn’t overbearing. I tend to prefer easy music in the morning; no clang, bang, crash, thank you! But what I find odd is that with The National’s prior album “Boxer”, I didn’t feel as if it was a morning-only album. It worked at almost any time, so long as I was in the mood. Stranger still, “High Violet” very-much-so stays in line with their 2007 release. Why then, can I not get myself to listen to it with the same frequency that I did “Boxer”?
I should probably start that analysis by looking at what differentiates these two albums. For starters, the songs on “High Violet” are more layered and complex. Back-up vocals, jangling guitars, complex drum rhythms. Granted, I haven’t compared the album side-by-side with “Boxer”, but off the top of my head I recall that album being much simpler. I’m pretty sure that this qualifies as an “evolution” in style, perhaps even a “maturation”. Mind you, I’m hesitant to linger on the latter: haven’t The National always sounded pretty mature? I mean c’mon — I don’t think there was ever a time that Matt Berninger’s baritone voice could have conveyed otherwise.
Another difference, and more blatant, is that this album has a whole bunch of new songs. None of them make me stop and go, “Woah! This is sooooo different!” Any of them could be tracks on “Boxer”. If you played the two back-to-back, you probably wouldn’t realize where one ends and one begins. Still, it’s different, and that’s entertaining. Further, the depth of some of the songs (as mentioned in the prior paragraph) do make things interesting to “learn”. At the end of the day, however, there are a fair number of songs on this album that just drag. I can’t imagine that Berninger is actually a party-pooper, but lord forbid anyone ever turn this music on at an actual festivity!
My conclusion? I think I’ve changed more than The National have. Their work had a time and place in my life. Fortunately, I’ve moved on. Mostly. I’m still going to play this one on gray mornings.