Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The National - High Violet [2010]

The National since the beginning was constantly aiming to join the best rock bands of the world and achieved quite a success both in popularity and music quality, but it wasn’t until High Violet that this measure became really fair.  Ladies and gentlemen – a perfect album?

High Violet  as the most mature work of this American group didn’t bring a revolution, but defined band’s style once again, showing how they focus on simplicity and atmosphere. And those are definitely two things that this album has. Less guitars, more strings, the base – vocals+drum+bass – well, this time it worked pretty amazing!

It’s a terrible love and I’m walking with spiders.. sings Matt and you can hear exactly what he means – hairy, buzzing spider-guitar-sound, stepping drum and a little depressed melody. But as the song grows and becomes thicker in guitar-drum line, you get an impression that those spiders are actually helping to endure terrible love..

And so Sorrow is still a little melancholic, but also gives a fresh air of optimism – light, thick drums and lovely background built of piano, strings and bass combination.  Add some girly choir to Matt’s voice and it seems to be a perfect song for a rainy, but pretty day.

Anyone’s Ghost has a very characteristic drum line, made even more noticeable by well adjusted rhythm guitars. The melody and lyrics are also very catchy + simple, so it surely is one of the easiest songs to remember from this album.

Little Faith is so far the most complex composition – the intro puts a pressure on changing guitar techniques – brushing and simple strummin. Unlike before, the drums are slightly in the back, but once again, the bass line adds depth to the sung parts. Thanks to the strings the song gets a slightly ‘epic’ effect, but in a nice, pleasant way.

The fatherhood brings joy, but also anxiety. It’s the second feeling that created Afraid of Everyone. It’s indeed a slightly scared, shy song with a beautiful, sad vocal-line. Instrumental part also gives real chills – from fragile guitar at the beginning, through murmured middle parts to finishing culmination with a drum-solo, buzzing guitar and tearing scream of Matts.

But afraid to drown everyone in sorrow, The National takes another turn into the Bloodbuzz Ohio where sunshine makes the journey more pleasant – the orchestral parts and thick, explosive drums make a real impression of driving towards the sunset. Moreover, the charming melody takes your heart and makes you smile and sing to yourself that you should go to…

Lemonworld, where you will lose your breath. It’s a land of a catchy melody, bonking drum and again, one of the easier songs, but unfortunately to me after a number of first excited listens it became a little boring…
Runaway on the contrary is fitting less to the current The National style. You can hear the instruments taking a more important role than just ‘making the background’. Also vocals are a bit harder to murmur.

Coming next - Conversation 16  takes all prizes – nice drums, stunning low sound (cello?), great lyrics and melody + some nice guitars appearing here and there.  And even outbreak in the end! My favorite, must be added to the hall of great rock songs=)

England has a real English atmosphere, at least the one you expect after stereotypes – pathos, sophistication but nethertheless nice tune with wind instruments and  an addictive outro.
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks is again fulfilled with instrumental tricks, seems to include most of orchestra and has a vibe of lullaby-waltz, but I guess- brings a proper end to this album.

So, is it masterpiece? Surely one of the best soft/indie rock albums of last years . Decide yourself and enjoy!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Backward Glance On A Travel Road - A Backward Glance On A Travel Road [2011]

Almost all my life I hated everything French and even when that hatred got less hating, I couldn’t find anything good from that country. But suddenly, since last spring I feel bombarded with great French things that try to drag me to the noir, pardon – dark – side. Sacrebleu! After discovering A Backward Glance On A Travel Road I don’t think I can resist much more!

These four Frenchmen just released their début staying mainly in neofolk borders, but at the same time pushing them a little further. What are their inspirations? Horror? Old church music? Flamenco? Nostalgic southern songs? I could try and keep guessing, but the important thing is that once again I was proved that (bad) old France didn’t die yet and can give us something really worth trying. So do!

Regular Barbary begins the album with a great passion. Amazing parts of acoustic guitar, switchfrom melancholic, classic passages to a dancing fury. Add some canteen piano, distorted speech and at last lovely male vocal and female screams, and with few other minor surprises, you get an amazing song.

Falling is a darker tune, filled with very delicate guitar&strings and a dialogue between moaning woman and reminding choir. The atmosphere gets really elegiac and subdued with drum in proper places. I was falling... into enchantment!

But every good band knows that they have to surprise their listener with changes. Johnny Got His Gun is introduced by slow, shy guitar growing to eventually burst and culminate the pressure during a short speech. In its simplicity, Johnny has a lot of dark power that can shake you really well.

In Absentia is a two parted, long composition with more classic usage of instruments. Of course it is still about acoustic guitars, charming voices and a some distortion, but there are also drums and a lot of nicely innocent (but so enriching) strings. Although the second part is maybe a bit more fragile and neofolkish with its one, characteristic riff and a little opera-performance.

Hier Régnant Désert has a form of a music argument – first you hear one idea – mad guitar trip, but as it’s disliked by our talker-interpreter, he proposes another, more dreamy one with a spectacular guitar combination (harmonics!<3). To me – both ideas are lovely!

Heat is much different from the rest of the album – least neofolk I’d say and definitely the most catchy one. And it’s also my favourite – a great instrumental base with stunning bridges, heart-breaking vocals and a really nice lyric. But surely they know it’s such a treasure, cause it’s Heat that is a first video (beautiful and really interesting, I couldn’t decide at first whether I liked guys' beards or story more;))

Approximativement Moi gives old piano, moaning, undecided strings and a ghostly voice. You can think of a horror or an old French cathedral (although those don’t have much singing nowadays I heard). I think of a perfect epilogue to that album. Now, can we please play that again?