Friday, June 11, 2010

National velvet

I bought the new record by The National, High Violet, in HMV yesterday. I listen to music sitting at my computer, with headphones on (which means I can't hear the phone ringing), which can be unsatisfying as I'm distracted by what I'm reading, the news about peculiar apparent murderer Joran van der Sloot (how can someone who was born in 1987 be a peculiar apparent murderer already?) or looking at fractal patterns or an exposition of geometry in nature, or going on some other internet odyssey or down a blind alley in search of something I can't quite remember.

Listening to this, though, I'm closing my eyes just to take it in. Matt Berninger's voice is deep and resonant, if sometimes world-weary, the arrangements are lush, the lyrics are intriguing ("You'll find commiseration in everyone's eyes/The storm'll suck the pretty girls into the skies" (Little Faith)), and every song draws you into itself in a different way, even though that's often with a kind of graceful bleakness. The first two tracks, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks and England, are both haunting and absolutely beautiful. The latter, in particular, builds to an incredible, wounding climactic chorus and then dies away in contemplation. The sound is brooding and intelligent; at its best, this is an incredible record.

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