My friend Chris thinks The National are totally overrated. 99.9% of the time anything Chris says in regards to music I agree with but this is not one of those occasions. I will admit though, it took some time before I understood the epic power and majesty of this band. One of the many mix CDs The Bob made for me years ago had a couple of songs from the Alligator album. I was not heavily impressed so I ignored that album and the subsequent 2007 release Boxer.
Three years later The National released High Violet. Once again I ignored it but this time the Murphy Brothers, Brendan from Source Victoria and Kevin who writes a KILLER music blog by the name of So Much Silence, plus Aaron Kes who was the drummer for The Other 49 convinced me that I needed to get the album. Still not 100% convinced I downloaded the album on iTunes rather than go buy the disc because I had an iTunes gift card. Holy ____ was I blown away …
I HATE when critics or fans describe music as “epic”. I think it is the most generic and shallow description for a band but in this case the tag fits. The National creates a style of orchestral indie pop that is huge, rich in texture, loaded with intelligent lyrics, packed with beautiful vocal harmonies and most of all, possessing a professionalism on the guitar, bass and drums that will take the listener on an unbelievable ride. High Violet became my runaway winner for Best Album of 2010 and the concert the band delivered at the Marquee Theater my pick for Best Concert of 2010. The fact The National went from being a band I ignored to sweeping all my best of picks for that year is pretty incredible.
Needless to say I made a point of backtracking and picking up 2005’s Alligator and Boxer, as well as 2004’s Cherry Tree EP and The Virginia EP that was released in 2008. The National followed up High Violet in 2013 with Trouble Will Find Me and that album was nearly as good, grabbing the #2 spot on my Best Albums of 2013 list. Other than not coming back to the Valley in 2013 or 2014 in support of Trouble Will Find Me this band can do no wrong in my opinion. What I love seeing is the fact the band has achieved a solid level of mainstream success, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart for both High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me without a single level of compromise in the music they create. That is pretty awesome.
The first time I heard “Terrible Love” on High Violet I was a little disturbed. I actually thought maybe the mix on the download was off somehow because the song sounds a bit muted in places. The mix grew on me but when I heard this alternate version that was included on Disc 2 of the November 2010 High Violet reissue I was floored. That remix gave The National a sweep for 2010 since it was my favorite song that year. Check it out.
Album Inspiration: High Violet reissue