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High Violet

The National
4AD

If Boxer detailed crushed ideals of young adulthood through a Raymond Carver lens, High Violet obliterates the fairytale of marriage, family and social standing with Poe-esque, vivid and intense hauntings. Matt Berninger’s voice demands attention as his characters fight through black dreams of swarms of bees, drowning and imagined attacks — both internal and external to the family — all awash in floods, rain and water in nearly every song. There is no light in this world, and one resigned character confesses the end to love declaring, I was afraid I’d eat your brains/’Cause I’m evil. As with Boxer, the band shrouds these characters in lush string and horn orchestrations, and expansive, distorted guitar chords, adding airy grandeur to forestall the narratives’ doom. Bryan Devendorf’s drums beat the crap out of these monsters, and Berninger’s steady, baritone delivery is aided with backing vocals that declare the theme, All the very best of us/String ourselves up for love. Depressing? Yes. Impressive? Absolutely.