Over the course of their 10-plus-year career, The National have crafted a bevy of respectable material—and a stronghold of fans—with their serious, frills-free take on indie rock. Through a combination of strong songwriting, instrumental flourishes (thinks horns, synths, and violins), and singer Matt Berninger’s unmistakably gravelly warble, they’ve championed a niche that many have long considered dead. On their fifth and latest release, High Violet, the band stunningly and successfully embraces their strong suits: writing sweeping rock about mundane travesties like raising a family and paying a mortgage. Through slow-building orchestrations, songs like “England” and “Little Faith” come alive with a barely restrained fury that perfectly mirrors Berninger’s vocal desperation. And while the subject matter might not be the most revelatory, the band’s meticulous attention to detail, pacing, and storytelling make High Violet one of the most affecting releases of 2010 thus far.


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