The National's fifth album, High Violet, was released on their new label 4AD on May 11th, 2010. It was the first
to be recorded at the band's own studio in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, with mixing by long time
associate Peter Katis at his Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Pulses and impulses pull against
each other creating a balance of tension. Let's call it musical tensegrity: engineered to stand up in unlikely
ways, the album is a triumph of sonic architecture; adorned with unexpected, alchemical, and happenstance
details, it is an ornamental wonder. Cathartic, raw and reflective, the record reveals ever deeper musical and
lyrical wonders with each listen.
Formed in 1999, the Ohio-raised, Brooklyn-based band consists of vocalist Matt Berninger fronting two
pairs of brothers: Aaron (guitar, bass, piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar), and Scott (bass, guitar) and Bryan
Devendorf (drums). Their first full-lengths, The National and Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, and a crucial
mini-album, Cherry Tree, preceded their signing to Beggars Banquet in 2004. Alligator (2005), included
underground anthem "Mr. November," and raised their profile as the National grew into an incendiary live
Boxer (2007), featuring songs like "Fake Empire", "Mistaken For Strangers" and "Start A War," sold over
three times as many copies as its predecessor and saw them transformed from underground stars into an
indie rock institution: they began the album cycle opening for the Arcade Fire and with guest appearance
on major television shows such as the Late Show with David Letterman. By the time their busy season in
support of Boxer came to a close they had become a headline attraction in their own right — REM picked
them as a crucial part of a US arena tour; and the Barack Obama campaign turned "Fake Empire" into an
unstated anthem for his presidential run, using it in the soundtrack to the promotional video Signs Of Hope
And Change, and as background music during his victory rally in Chicago's Grant Park.
As the first decade of the 21st century came to a close both Boxer and Alligator made countless "album of
the decade" lists and their members began to occupy a still larger cultural footprint. In the period between
Boxer and High Violet, Aaron and Bryce produced 2009's Dark Was The Night, a 31-track album to benefit
the Red Hot Organization. Featuring contributions from Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer,
and many others, the record has raised close to $1,000,000 for numerous AIDS-related charities, including
an emergency grant of $150,000 to Haiti's Partners In Health after that country's calamitous earthquake.
A related Radio City Music Hall concert quickly sold out and found The National performing alongside
David Byrne, Dirty Projectors, Feist, and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.
Anticipation for The National's next move has grown to a fever pitch."We started out trying to make a light
and happy record, but it just didn't happen," says Matt. "This album is catchier and more fun than our other
records, and bleaker in its ideas and themes."
The first single, "Bloodbuzz Ohio," is a rip-roaring rock song and an elegy to things the realization that
you'll never be a teenager again. "Conversation 16" hovers on the brink of frustration and doom, "Runaway"
is the subtlest of love songs, and "Lemonworld" hails the value of hope, fun and fantasy. "I prefer misquotes
to the actual lyrics," says Matt. "It gives the songs more dimensions when people hear something else..."
"We always agonize over what we're doing," says Aaron trying to summarize his thoughts about this
music. "It's not hi-fi and orchestral but at the same time it's not garage rock, even though ideas from both of
those worlds are important elements of what we do. Somehow we create our own little world, and it works,
even though sometimes it shouldn't. The process can be difficult, but eventually something beautiful and
cohesive will emerge. Making something heartfelt is our only concern."