Out Today: The National

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The National
High Violet
(4AD)

Just when you thought the National had peaked with 2007’s Boxer, a shadowy but obliquely intense record, the Cincinnati natives shatter all conventions on their fifth album. They strive to define a generation on High Violet, and in many cases, they succeed. The album rumbles from its own belly, with songs exploding within themselves, lyrics detailing the impossibilities of life in a way that’s simultaneously puzzling and universal. Like the band’s other records, High Violet grows on you. After a few listens, you begin to like the way Matt Berninger’s deep baritone rises and falls over Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s melding, shimmering guitar lines. Thanks to drummer Bryan Devendorf’s alternating time signatures and his brother Scott’s booming bass, these songs kick to life. “Sorrow found me when I was young,” Berninger mumbles in “Sorrow.” “Sorrow waited, sorrow won.” It hints at the album’s emotional journey. The National don’t reach perfection here, but they get so close it’s scary. —Danielle Sills

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