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The National: High Violet

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Artist: The National

Title: High Violet
Release date: May 11
Label: 4AD

If The Hold Steady's Heaven Is Whenever is destined to be the party album of the summer, then The National's new record, High Violet, is destined to be the party-is-over record of the summer. 

In fact, I couldn't blame you if you decided to wait until autumn to really try to absorb The National's brand of mope rock. High Violet isn't a lot of fun (song titles include "Terrible Love," "Sorrow," "Little Faith," and "Afraid of Everyone"), but the band's Midwestern-ized take on Joy Division does sound awesome.


The singer, a self-described "delicate man, in "Lemonworld," has a strong baritone -- like Ian Curtis mixed with the casually melodic delivery of, say, Ian McCullough or Tinderstick's Stuart Staples. It's that style singing that allows lyrics like "Venom radio and venom television / I'm afraid of everyone . . . Not to hurt anyone I like / But I don't have the drugs to sort it out" to let at least a few rays of light into these songs. Thankfully, the desperate gravity of Ian Curtis is absent in his voice.

If it's Sunday morning and you're coming down from the night before, the beautiful sadness of The National's High Violet might actually pick you up. 

Best song: For simplicity and rawness, "Anyone's Ghost." For complexity and richness, "England." 
Rotation: Heavy-medium
Deja vu: Echo and the Bunnymen, if they were from Kansas.
I'd rather listen to: Joy Division
Grade: B+

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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