Label: 4AD Release date: 10/05/10 Website: American Mary When The National released Boxer in 2007, bloggers and indie kids united in claiming to have kept the band as their own secret since 2005's Alligator. Three years on and The National are no-ones secret. We've had enough time to discover and digest the wonder that is the band's back catalogue, and as we have, a buzz of anticipation has grown around the band. Critics, bloggers and social networkers worked themselves into a collective whirlwind of hype for new material, as each snippet of news that escaped about it was seemingly more perfect than the last; Produced by long term collaborator Peter Katis (of Interpol, Frightened Rabbit, Fanfarlo, Twilight Sad fame) Orchestrated in places by Nico Muhley. Guests including Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver and Richard Reed Parry from the Arcade Fire. By the time the band previewed 'Terrible Love' on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon back in March, the expectant murmuring had risen to an impatient roar, with all ears focused solely on hearing the album in full. The question started to be asked, could The National live up to all the anticipation and go on to create the generation defining masterpiece as we all hoped they would? From the first line of High Violet, "It's a terrible love and i'm walking with spiders" Matt Berninger's enigmatic delivery takes center stage, always ambiguous, always drenched in emotion. "Terrible Love" stands as the perfect encapsulation of the album as a whole. Its repeated refrain, "It takes an ocean not to break" pulls you in, as its guitars and drums spiral out of control into a glorious whirlwind of their own creation. There is catharsis to be found in a climax of this nature, within the juxtaposition of an epic crescendo and a Berninger's monotone vocal delivery. Its that clash of style that The National specialise in, and they have developed it further on this album. With the familiarity in his voice sitting crisp and all knowing in the eye of every storm, Berninger has swiftly found himself the voice of a generation just old enough to feel uncomfortable tweeting but not old enough to give in. The 2nd generation TV kids who watched their lives blend into the mire of the middle ground and never quite got over it. The honesty in dealing with emotions without ego lends itself to their collective heart. Songs like 'Lemonworld' and lead single 'Bloodbuzz, Ohio' become stories that you relate to your own situations. Giving them a personal significance that you cannot replicate with a catchy chorus, or a guitar hook, The National operate above that. They edge further into your heart with each listen as you realise just how much time they have spent sculpting what at first seemed so simple. Subtleties creak out of every sound, within every song, making each one feel more important for you having discovered it. This is especially true with the closing track 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks', which is possibly the most assured the band have ever sounded. Nico Muhley scoring an understated orchestral climax that fits the album perfectly, at once triumphant and delicate, strutting chest out whilst tears dry on its cheeks. It feels like a wink and a nod when Berninger sings "I'll explain everything to the geeks" as the song fade outs but you can't help but love him more for it. With High Violet they are not just playing on the tension like Boxer but taking that idea and building on it, and thats the thing with The National. They build, they build honestly and meaningfully, they build a place inside your heart. Each album sits like a footprint in the snow. The payoff comes when you look back and see where you've been, where you've come from, and realise the direction in which you are going. High Violet is so typically a National album, and that is the best thing about it, it's not the generation defining album that will change the world. It's just another step in the snow. Photobucket