#1 on the 2010 Musical Bacon Calendar
High Violet by The National
If you’ve talked music with me at all since May 30, 2010, then you most likely predicted what would be #1 on the Musical Bacon Calendar. While I had listened to High Violet a bit before heading into Sasquatch!, I hadn’t expected much from The National’s performance that fateful day in May. Here’s what I wrote up for Click & Dagger after the fact:
The National’s recorded music, powerful in its own right — with most songs building from a quiet, understated point to a frenzied climax, doesn’t seem like it would translate to the big stage. But I’m so happy to report that I was 100% wrong. The band puts everything into their set. Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals just melt across the crowd when he’s singing quietly. But as each song builds, he becomes a powerful force that commands attention. Brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, swapping guitars back and forth throughout the set as only brothers could, add a little bit of a necessary damper to Berninger’s onstage antics. And the National’s second set of brothers, Scott and Bryan Devendorf, on bass and drums, respectively provide the undertone and the excitement to the set. With Padma Newsome on violin and keyboards, the band performed one amazing song after another.
Watching Berninger on stage really brought things to life. He throws mic stands; he bounces around the stage; he pounds his fist into his open palm over and over again, to the point that you wonder if the man suffers from a slight form of Asperger’s. But each and every song was powerful. You could feel the energy emanating from the stage. And when Berninger took to the crowd, during “Abel,” from their Beggar’s Banquet debut Alligator, he provided me with one of those once-in-a-lifetime festival experiences. He waded through the crowd, singing at the top of his lungs, spreading his overflowing energy from one person to the next. And he walked right next to me, holding his mic to his mouth with one hand and the cord for the mic up over the crowd with his other, singing the song’s “chorus” — the shouted line “My mind’s not right” repeated over and over and over again — right next to me. That’s some powerful stuff.
So powerful, in fact, that nothing has been able to match it since. I could have even given Berninger a hug, but I managed to restrain myself, shouting right along with him — to the point where I lost my voice. It was a religious experience, in the purest since of the word.
I saw The National play again later in the year, headlining their own show at Marymoor Park, and while that show was really, really, good, it still wasn’t better than the Sasquatch! set. And the tone of High Violet changed for me from that day forward. Every time I heard it — probably once every three or four days for the rest of the year — I relieved that feeling of Berninger, not 2 feet from me, shouting “My Mind’s Not Right” to me and 15,000 other people.
That feeling, and this album (along with the rest of The National’s albums), will be burned into my brain for the rest of my life. But while you won’t be able to have the same emotional connection to this album that I do, High Violet is still worthy of #1. It’s a hard-rocking, make-you-move kinda album that just carries you through the entire record. There are some slow moments, but they’re necessary to keep you moving through to the next rocking song. Pick up this album, and live with it for the next year. You won’t be sorry.
2. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
3. The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens
4. Odd Blood by Yeasayer
5. Mines by Menomena
6. Contra by Vampire Weekend
7. Go by Jónsi
8. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
9. Gorilla Manor by the Local Natives
10. The Head and the Heart by the Head and the Heart
11. Special Affections by Diamond Rings
12. Treats by Sleigh Bells
13. Write About Love by Belle & Sebastian
14. Wild Smile by Suckers
15. Learning by Perfume Genius
16. Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene
17. Expo 86 by Wolf Parade
18. One Life Stand by Hot Chip
19. Big Echo by The Morning Benders
20. Here’s To Taking It Easy by Phosphorescent
21. This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
22. The Mistress by Yellow Ostrich
23. Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter
24. Been Listening by Johnny Flynn
25. The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man on Earth
26. Lisbon by The Walkmen
27. Scratch My Back by Peter Gabriel
28. All Day by Girl Talk
29. A Storm – A Tree – My Mother’s Head by Bobby Bare Jr.
30. 03 to TEN by Knathan Ryan
31. In This Light On This Evening by Editors