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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The National: High Violet

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The rural inflections that once defined the National have disintegrated into a wave of post-Big Star pop intimacy with the band's fifth album, High Violet. Every somber moment that hangs on the slow rhythms and floating guitar in "Bloodbuzz Ohio," "Lemonworld" and "England" are pulled, as though by magnetic force, toward vocalist Matt Berninger's casual, baritone boom. Berninger's voice sets the tone for every billowing melody to dutifully sway alongside, with enough beauty to burst the hardest of hearts. There's an impressive blend of terrain covered as "Conversation 16" unfolds with a broken-hearted new wave pulse. The one snag, closing number "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks," is majestic in its own right, but it's an unnecessarily uplifting moment that's out of step with the rest of the album's autumn-colored moods. It's a small point of contention, but a jarring end to an otherwise impeccable work of dark romanticism. (4AD) 4 out of 5 stars.

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