Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Record of the Month

I figured I'd do a monthly 'what I'm listening to' kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it's my blog! So there!
"I was carried - to Ohio in a swarm of bees".

I am loving that lyric. It's a stand-out line from the National song "Bloodbuzz Ohio", which might be the centerpiece of their new album, High Violet. But there are many highlights on this disk.

Actually, I'm loving the disk too - and you know how I really don't like much of anything, so that's kind of saying something, no?

Folks - we have a contender for the best release of 2010 !!!!!!

If Arcade Fire doesn't completely hit it out of the park with their disk in two months, the National might take the title for this year.

Back in 1987, my friend Jon once told me about my music choices, "it's good.....but down" or was it, "it's down.....but good". Either way, you get where he was coming from; and where I come from. If I were a teenage girl, I'd just go for the Bell Jar set to music.

Matt Berninger's tenor (and sometimes baritone) is riveting and haunting. When I first listened to the new disk, I wanted to stay put and turn away all at the same time. But in reality, I'm totally captivated.

I'd say the group isn't like anything you've heard before, but that's not entirely true. While they are not like Arcade Fire exactly, you can see some similar elements, but it mostly the lead vocal. AF, musically, can throw in everything and the kitchen sink - along with a running disposal. Not so much with the National.

On first listen, you might say the disk goes fairly minimalist, but the subtle layers only make you think that. When you really listen, it's pretty hypnotic and captivating. I can reference many of the songs, but "Runaway" comes to mind with the mostly a guitar and slowly swelling trumpets.

Lyrically, they are all over it. "Bloodbuzz Ohio", which I referenced at the beginning of this post, is great, but by no means the only one. Take "Conversation 16" with "I'll tell you miserable things after you are asleep" and "I was afraid....I'd eat your......brain". That last lyric isn't so much the words as the phrasing and almost lack of intonation in the vocal.

I'm a big fan of "England", "Sorrow", "Anyone's Ghost", "Afraid of Everyone" - actually of most every song. The only one that doesn't jump out for me is "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks", even though it's a great title.

I go back and forth to what my favourite song on the disk. I shouldn't say, because it changes on every listen. That's not a bad thing - as I swear I hear new things each time. But at this very moment, "Conversation 16" might be it.

If you listen casually, you might say all the songs sound the same. They don't. For the most part, the tempo does, at least seemingly, but that's not really true either.

High Violet isn't necessarily a background music kind of album, it is a sit and listen to it kind of disk. I think after you get to know it, it could make an amazing background kind of record. Admittedly I have only played it on my iPod, but am dying to get it on a full stereo system.

I hope you give it a chance. I don't praise too many disks here, but this is one of them. Now I need to check out their back catalog.

For fun, I'm just including the video for "Bloodbuzz Ohio".


Cubby said...

Reminiscent of David Bowie.

Morty said...

LOVE Fake Empire - downloaded it a few years ago. Glad they're back.

Jonny said...

Good...but down. I like the song and LOVE the video.
I hear Joy Division....and that's a compliment as you know.