Before the mega-hype surrounding High Violet, I’d never quite got around to listening to a National song, let alone an album before. There’s only so many times you can hear ‘epic’, ‘drumming’ and ‘baritone’ without it all becoming a bit of a haze, to be honest. However, when offered the chance to grab a copy, I thought I owed it to myself to take a listen to them. I’ll have a review of the whole album up soon on For Folk’s Sake, but for now I’d just like to talk about three particular songs that make up the centre of the album because, frankly, they’re just brilliant.
‘Afraid of Everyone’ utilises the skills of one Sufjan Stevens to create a song that, with its gentle backing vocals and measured buildup should by all rights be quite irritating, but as quick cuts of shivering guitar creep in and the beat builds it becomes a far more nervous affair. You’ll probably have heard ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ by now, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll love it for its sense of drama and the sheer irrepressability of the drumbeat (turns out all that talk of drumming I ignored was right actually). Finishing this triumverate is ‘Lemonworld’, a stately little number that draws you in and doesn’t let you go until the final notes – Matt Berninger’s droning, hypnotic tones can make even ‘doo doo doo’ sound like an emotional lyric.
I don’t think it’s a perfect album, there are moments where it falls a little flat, but as a centrepiece, these three tracks are a wonderful little journey in themselves – tension, release and perfect calm. Now I just have to hope they can match that on their older records.
PS. Bloodbuzz Ohio was a free download so I imagine you can find it just about anywhere you care to look on the internet by now.