Feature

The National: High Violet

The quintet’s tortured chamber pop isn’t groundbreaking, but frontman Mark Berninger bravely tackles subjects that most rock bands eschew.

(4AD)

***

High Violet is the “sound of a band taking a mandate to be a meaningful rock band seriously,” said Andrew Gaerig in Pitchforkmedia.com. Since 2007’s Boxer, The National has earned a lot of praise—some would say too much. While the Brooklyn, N.Y., quintet’s tortured chamber pop isn’t groundbreaking, on High Violet, frontman Mark Berninger bravely tackles the “lived-in moments”—real jobs, parenthood, “uninteresting sex”—that most rock bands eschew. In his dour baritone, Berninger chronicles the “growing disaffection” that arrives with adulthood, said Steven Hyden in the A.V. Club. On High Violet, he “opens up like never before”—addressing social anxieties (“Conversation 16”), financial burdens (“Bloodbuzz Ohio”), and fears of fatherhood (“Afraid of Everyone”). His band mates have become more ambitious, too, incorporating a “swelling, almost symphonic mix of strings and horns into quietly epic songs.”

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