The National swallowed the sun and explained everything to the geeks with the stolen soul of these somber songs of sorrow and sympathy. With the adulation afforded 'Alligator' and 'Boxer', the band was in a position to experiment with their sound. Matt Berninger explains: "I worked on melody far more than I ever have in the past. I didn’t work on the lyrics at all for the first six months of working on this record. I just wanted melodies that were good. We wanted these songs to feel overwhelming and powerful. We wanted to undo what we did with Boxer. There are swelling moments on Boxer, but Boxer is restrained. It has a lot of building tension that never quite releases. We wanted a cathartic, sonic explosion with this record. Musically is where that tension release happens on this record; it doesn’t do it with me screaming. It was a reaction to Boxer; in another way—we had a lot of confidence. We wanted to make a really fun record. I understand when people say “well it’s not fun, or happy.” And I know it’s not happy, but I do think it’s fun. It’s kind of this loud, ugly blast in a lot of ways. That was all intentional. We were all definitely swinging for the cheap seats on this one ... I think that we, without ever talking about it for some reason, we were always drawn to those suspense building moments that hold on something for a while and it builds and swells with tension, and it’s fun. It’s drama. And I think we do that a lot without even ever realizing it. It’s just something, it’s just how we write. Recently we’ve been trying to, not very well, but we’ve been trying to write just fun pop - - whatever a pop song is, but we’ve been attempting to write something that we would think of as a pop song, and we’re trying to avoid some of our old, some of the comfort zones. And a song like “Anyone’s Ghost” was I think the only semi-successful version of a pop song that we’ve written. And, I don’t know, it’s like we - - there’s just things that, the new record High Violet, we talked about making a really fun record after Boxer, you know, Boxer is dark and stately and so we wanted to make a very different kind of record. Somehow, I think it’s a lot more fun, I think this record is dark fun, you know? It’s more black fun, whatever you would call it, because the themes are some of the darkest stuff lyrically I think that we’ve written, and musically."
'High Violet' features Matt Berninger on lead vocals; Aaron Dessner on guitars, keyboard, and bass; Bryce Dessner on guitars; Bryan Devendorf on drumsand percussion; and Scott Devendorf on bass and guitar; with Tim Albright, Benjamin Lanz, and Dave Nelson on trombone; Hideaki Aomori on clarinet and bass clarinet; Michael Atkinson and Jeremy Thai on French horn; Thomas Bartlett on piano and keyboards; Mads Christian Brauer on electronics and filtering; CJ Camereri on trumpet and cornet; Greg Chudzik on double bass; Rachael Elliott on bassoon; Alex Hamlin on baritone saxophone; Maria Jeffers on cello; Bridget Kibbey on harp; Thom Kozumplik on percussion; Rob Moose on violin; Nico Muhly on celeste; Padma Newsome on violin and viola; Richard Reed Parry on double bass, electric guitar, piano, vocals, and backing vocal arrangements for "Conversation 16"; Kyle Resnick on trumpet; Nadia Sirota on viola; Alex Sopp on flute and bass flute; Sufjan Stevens on harmonium, vocals, and backing vocal arrangements for "Afraid of Everyone"; and Laurel Sprengelmeyer, Marla Hansen, and Justin Vernon on vocals.
'High Violet' was produced by The National with additional production by Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, and Peter Katis; and recorded between March 2009 and January 2010 in Aaron's garage in Brooklyn, NY by Peter Mavrogeorgis, Brandon Reid, Aaron Dessner, and Bryce Dessner; with additional recording at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, CT by Peter Katis, and at Kampo Studios in New York City by Patrick Dillett. Greg Georgio was the second engineer and was assisted by Keith J Nelson. Additional vocal recording was done by Christian Biegai in Berlin, Germany. Mixed by Peter Katis with additional mixing by Greg Georgio. Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound in New York City. Orchestration by Bryce Dessner and Padma Newsome, except "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" and "Lemonworld" by Nico Muhly. The cover sculpture is called The Binding Force by Mark Fox.
Aaron Dessner admits: "This is the first record that I can listen to so soon and enjoy, which is either a really good sign or a really bad sign! After Boxer, I was so traumatized by the process and how stressful it was, and how close we came to really getting… What we did with Boxer in the end was more dramatic I think, because we were literally taking endings off and ‘Apartment Story’ had a whole other verse, and ‘Brainy’ had this whole outro and different lyrics, we really chopped it up. This record, because we made it at home, we worked many many many many more hours on it as we could work all the time, and I think we got closer before mixing than we ever had before. A lot of the aesthetic was pre-determined by us being able to fight this battle."
'High Violet' went to number twenty-nine in Australia; twenty-three in the Netherlands; twenty in Austria fourteen in Switzerland; twelve in Norway; ten in Germany; nine in Finland; five in New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK; four in Greece; three in Belgium, Ireland, and the US; and number two in Canada and Denmark.
"Afraid of Everyone"
"Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks"
1. "Terrible Love" Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner 4:39
2. "Sorrow" Berninger, A. Dessner 3:25
3. "Anyone's Ghost" Berninger, Bryce Dessner 2:54
4. "Little Faith" Berninger, Carin Besser, A. Dessner 4:36
5. "Afraid of Everyone" Berninger, A. Dessner 4:19
6. "Bloodbuzz Ohio" Berninger, A. Dessner, Padma Newsome 4:36
7. "Lemonworld" Berninger, B. Dessner 3:23
8. "Runaway" Berninger, A. Dessner 5:33
9. "Conversation 16" Berninger, Carin Besser, A. Dessner 4:18
10. "England" Berninger, A. Dessner 5:40
11. "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" Berninger, Carin Besser, A. Dessner 4:12
12. "Walk Off" Berninger, A. Dessner 2:40
13. "Sin-Eaters" Berninger, A. Dessner 3:40
14. "Wake Up Your Saints" Berninger, A. Dessner 4:14
15. "You Were a Kindness" Berninger, A. Dessner 4:25