I’ve Listened to These Recently…

…under the veil of cool shades keeping out the Texas heat and everyday nonchalance. And, yes, only three records reviewed. Listened to many more but need to listen to them more.


The National

High Violet

The National are no secret to anyone, at least not anymore. Before 2005’s Alligator The National were really nothing special. Boring, simple rock with brooding lyrics. It was the aforementioned album that really solidified their sound, a full, yet spacious, swirl of properly placed instrumentation all holding up Matt Beringer’s milk chocolate baritone, which speaks in breakups and years, not in stanzas like most. Boxer, their follow-up, brought them indie-fame, and rightly so. Again utilizing their friends in Clogs, a primarily instrumental string quartet, elevated all of the ideas presented in Alligator and eschewed it to a higher, almost intellectual level. Some of those cuts, man…to this day are still favorites of mine.

Now, with semi-fame on their brows the Brooklyn by-way-of-Cincinnati boys have presented this new record, High Violet, to an eager and watchful fan base. Fear not, the National are here, tenfold.

“Terrible Love” opens up with nothing really special. “Sorrow,” cut number two, though, is melted butter oozing down the walls, molding and swelling the wood floor. “Sorrow waited/Sorrow won…Sorrow, they put me on the pill/It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk.” I challenge anyone to listen to the entire song and not think about the worst things that have ever happened to them. Sure, the first world loves to wallow in their problems, but this rolling in the mud has never sounded so good. So peaceful. So true to life.

This is you now. This is you, then. This is why the National have come into notoriety. This luscious voice is all of ours, penetrating the minds of hipsters, NPR junkies, have-at bartenders, and bonfire boobs alike.

Spill in it.

The first single, “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” is the only recognizable cut in that it has the familiar drum into as “Mistaken for Stangers.” All other congruences are null.

Here we find the National at their peak. Lyrics, music, time, and penchant no problem. With Boxer they solidified their future identity, but High Violet simply punched the face of those that didn’t believe.

I could go through each track and explain why it is morose, poignant, and essential but it is really unneeded. Just know this: as slow as their start was, The National will definitely leave an untouchable legacy.

Titus Andronicus

The Monitor

Buzz band and pompously educated wordsmiths, Titus Andronicus have befuddled me to no end.

The music itself is, for lack of a better term, edgy and heavy and well thought-out. The lyrics sit in the same balloon basket. It’s just…that goddamn voice.

Now, I’m sure that they’re not Bright Eyes worshipers, but, damn…the likeness is confounding. Yes, I loved Bright Eyes in the Fevers and Mirrors period, but the sheen soon sullied into a rehashed, rusty car after listening, playing with, and getting to know the real Oberst. If you’re asking, yes, he’s a self-righteous dick.

Now, how am I supposed to separate that poor memory from this band, who is promising, to say the least. Perfectly placed samples, great songwriting and arrangement, and, as stated before, great, honest lyrics. (I’m a sucker for cussing.) I can sit and listen to this album through multiple times in a single day but it takes a certain amount of focus not to think back, time and time again, of goddamned Bright Eyes. And it is the Eyes that I blame this conundrum, not Andronicus.

A concept record based around the Civil War, The Monitor is extremely entertaining from beginning to end. Proudly exposing their Jersey roots, Springsteen is quoted and the Garden State is mentioned over and over but what really belies their magic is that their sound is universal; it could’ve come from Montana or Alaska. The only thing that matters is that there are real brains behind this music.

If only we could go back in time and stop Bright Eyes before it even began. Then Titus Andronicus could really fulfill their due worth.

Njiqahdda

Yrg Alms

Don’t ask me how to pronounce Njiqahdda.

Atmospheric black metal has seen a peak on population and popularity in the recent years and I wish I could give a reason for it. Maybe the resurgence, and slow legalization, of weed? Or the growing interest in metal? Or computers giving the layman the ability to record AND put out their own records?

Anyway, it’s here. And, for the most part, it’s bad. Njiqahdda falls into the unmentioned category, though: listenable, good, but still downright scary.

Aural landscapes (think clouds and mountains…that have the ability to scream at you) fill this five song LP with full-frontal noise. Sculpted noise. Every once in a while, even, there is a breakdown and the muddled, muddy voice comes through rhythmically…mercy. Listen to “Saavolungaat” for a good overview. And to be scared out of your jammy pants.

I wouldn’t suggest this to the everyday metal fan. It’s weighty and it’s terribly drawn out, as in length, not architecture. Fans of Alcest would probably dig it, but I would put money on Njiqahdda beating the shit out of that French dude. Just sayin’.

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