There’s something strangely beautiful about an unexpected dusk: when you realise early evening has segued into night imperceptibly and without fanfare; its bold grandeur suddenly apparent having crept up subtly. The National have perfected such gentle transitions, exhibiting cool restraint with only rare exceptions (the cathartic Mr November rushes to mind).
Opening High Violet with typical command, Terrible Love shivers with talk of the quiet company of spiders before building gradually into a vast epic. On Sorrow, Matt Berninger sounds caught between weariness and untapped romantic hope, his rich baritone helping lines like “cover me in rag and bones… because I don’t want to get over you” convey heartbreak and tenderness, jointly and with ambiguity. Bloodbuzz Ohio, meanwhile, is a passionate centrepiece, the moment when High Violet makes another of those near-imperceptible shifts, this time taking their fifth album from fan-satisfier to classic.
The accolade is confirmed by standout Runaway: over bass-drum couplets that pulse like a heartbeat, Berninger lets emotions break through while brass builds with devastating beauty, multiple listens never paling their arrival’s impact. As Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks brings High Violet to its own beautiful dusk, the bold grandeur and breathtaking finesse of The National's current form is unmistakable. [Chris Buckle]