Listened The National’s ‘High Violet’ Turns 10 from Stereogum

High Violet is also arguably the last time the National significantly transformed between albums. This is not to disparage what came later: Trouble Will Find Me refined formulas put forth here, while Sleep Well Beast started to blur the edges of their music with slight electronic experimentation. But whether in our growing familiarity with the band, or in the way that bands establish patterns as they solidify their strengths, much of the National’s output over the ’10s was, always, recognizably the National. Much of that is rooted in the turning point of High Violet, the moment when the National took what they’d built on Alligator and Boxer and widened the scope into a grand, literary, moody, sardonic brand of arena rock for a disenchanted generation.

I loved High Violet. It was when I truly discovered The National. Reading this review, I wonder if I too was caught at a particular point in my life.

Berninger had become a father, and while he didn’t want to dwell on it, you can feel a different level of existential concern creeping into the apocalyptic mood of “Afraid Of Everyone.” Elsewhere, he still had plenty of gripping depictions of vanishing youth and the weight of our decisions (or lack thereof) — the suggested distance between us in “England,” the louche getaway fantasy of “Lemonworld.”

Having had our first child, I remember walking hours listening to this album. It is one of those albums where different moments will prize free and life you feeling.

Listened The National: I Am Easy to Find from Pitchfork

With a cast of female vocalists guiding and redirecting the songs, the National’s eighth album is their largest, longest, and most daring.

I Am Easy to Find is both an album and a film. Where Sleep Well Beast flagged something of a change through their collaboration with Mouse on Mars, the addition of different voices in this album allows the music to explore different characters. different roles within the music. One of the hardest things I found was that I went into the album expecting something. I remember having a similar experience with Radiohead when they released Kid A/Amnesiac. This album started offereing more once I stopped trying to hear what was not there. Mike Mills, Matt Berninger Aaron Dessner also provided a track-by-track reflection of the album.
Listened Matt Berninger (The National) Talks with Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos) for the Talkhouse Music Podcast from Talkhouse

Matt Berninger (the National) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos) are two of rock’s heaviest-hitting lyricists. Turns out, they’re also huge fans of each other’s songs.

The guys recently sat down to discuss all things songwriting (lyrics, finding melody, influences, “dick references,” embarrassment and so much more) for the Talkhouse Music Podcast. They break down songs from across their catalogues, such as the National’s “All the Wine,” “Fake Empire” and “Lemonworld,” and Conor’s “Lua,” “You Are Your Mother’s Child” and “Artifact #1.” They also discuss their favorite songwriters, giving a lot of love to Leonard Cohen.

This conversation between Matt Berninger and Conor Oberst provides an insight into the art of songwriting and music. I have long been told to listen to Oberst, but never found an entry point. I feel after understanding a bit more of the context to the music that I should return again for another listen.
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I would argue that not so Ace-of-Base electronica is in part the consequence of teaming up with Mouse on Mars:

The Dessners were immersed in electronic experimentation last year when, randomly, they liaised with German techno-types Mouse On Mars in Berlin and, as a result, Sleep Well Beast opens with what might pass as Kompakt-brand micro-house in ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ – the baritone Berninger singing restrainedly over piano and strings accompanied by glitches ‘n’ twitches.

Listened The National: Boxer (Live in Brussels) from Pitchfork

In 2017, the National revisited their 2007 classic Boxer at a show in Brussels, and the set has been packaged for a Record Store Day release. You had to be there…

I must admit that I came to The National on the hype of High Violet. As with going back to The Bends after discovering Radiohead (other than Creep – which does not seem like the same band), it is interesting listening to this live recording of Boxer and reading the Pitchfork review of the album. I think that it would be different listening if I had seen them live, but in lieu of this, it is an enjoyable listen.