What I’m listening to: album review

This is a new feature that will appear whenever I’m super excited about something that I’m listening to.  This week it’s all about the one album I haven’t been able to stop listening to and had to go buy it at Target after work on Friday because I couldn’t face the prospect of two whole days without it.

High Violet album cover

On Monday afternoon (6/14) we got a delivery of items from the museum to add to our growing collection.  Mixed in among the books and magazines was the new National CD, High Violet.  I think all the band members are originally from Ohio, but they officially formed the band in Brooklyn, NY.  I’ve been a casual fan since seeing them open for R.E.M. two years ago (see my brief review here), and eagerly grabbed the CD to put it on my office computer (which, alas, does not support iTunes).

An album like this doesn’t really reveal itself until the second listen, and by the end of it I was completely enamored.  I won’t get into a song-by-song analysis here, but the themes that immediately come to mind are about love and home, specifically New York (cast in an unfavorable light), which continues the setting of their last album, Boxer.  High Violet’s standout song, Bloodbuzz Ohio, includes the lyric “I never thought about love when I thought about home,” and I see connections from this line to other songs on the album.  But choose another line from this song, “I still owe money to the money I owe”, and Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield would have you believe that the song is the band’s “money” song.   He seems to think that Ohio is used only because it sounds similar to the words “I owe,” but considering the band’s connection to the state, I’d argue the opposite; the closest connection to money that I see is in a larger, state of union sense.  In any case, the alliteration is awesome, and it is one thing that sets the National apart from the average band.  Their songs may repeat the same few words or verses over and over, but the overall effect is hypnotic.

One of my other favorite moments on the album begins at the 3 minute mark in the song “Afraid of Everyone.”  The repeated lyric is not anything special on paper – “Yellow voices swallowing my soul, soul, soul” – but as it is sung, along with the production of the music, these few words take me to another time and place, reminiscent of the 1985 song “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy.  And indeed, a description of that band’s song on allmusic.com includes the phrase “memorable chant-like hook,” which could easily apply to the National as well.


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One Response to “What I’m listening to: album review”

  1. John Torres Says:

    I’m a big fan of the National. Recently took a crack at “Bloodbuzz in Ohio” Enjoy!

    P.S. if you’d like a copy of the mp3, email john@johntorres.com

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