Like the Avett Brothers without the high lonesome vocal mien
and absolute contagion, brother acts Scott (guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums),
and Aaron (bass) and Bryce Dessner (guitar) let brooding baritone singer Matt
Berninger lead their way through the National’s brittle brand of Brit-pop laced
Americana. Until now, you couldn’t have colored this reviewer too impressed.
Nobody needed the Wilco-Lite (hell, nobody needs Wilco, but that’s another
review) that The National spieled on about on records like Sad
Songs for Dirty Lovers.
But something happened to The National on High Velvet: maybe being road dogs
pushed Berninger toward confidence and anxiety (or confident anxiety) as a
lyricist or something pushed the band toward explosive melodies. The National
figured it out, whatever it is, on
this spare yet expansive enterprise. Berninger sounds broken and raw nerved as
he courses through the messed-up “Terrible Love” and “Little Faith” while the
bros themselves seem to lift even the wiftiest of tunes (“Lemonworld”) into
something, ultimately heroic. The National have figured a way to be more
chattily conversational and intimate (uh, “Conversation”) while provoking humor
and weird angles (“Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”) out of its sound.
Standout Tracks: “Sorrow,” “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “England” A.D.