Stumbling across Alligator in Fopp on a non-descript weekday afternoon in 2005 worked out to be one of the sweetest and unexpected musical highlights of the past ten years. Since then, this Brooklyn band has consistently honored that experience by confidently building on Alligator's success. 2007's Boxer raised the bar to heights that even Alligator rarely hinted at - and so, expectation was swollen and bloated beyond the humble proportions that this band cultivate. Since Boxer the Dessner brothers have proved themselves to be quite a creative force in today's industry putting out the Dark Was The Night and Long Count projects, so with all that added experience High Violet was set to be stellar.
I have to admit though to feelings of disappointment throughout many of the initial listens here. Boxer's rich soundscapes and widescreen ambition seemed to have been compromised in favor of a much more low key sound. Matt Berninger's dichotomous writing can lift you up on "A wingspan unbelievable" with confessions of inadequacy and insecurity but here seemed to fall short of those heights and feel more content to leave you wallowing. The pace also hints at this redirection of vision. Boxer was a drummers album and High Violet rarely exploits this aspect to the same extent.
But to cut a long story short, now I bloody love it. I must have had it on repeat constantly for the last week and this new direction has seeped into my soul and to this day refuses to release me. I guess a good way to describe High Violet is in depth rather than height. While Boxer could often soar, these songs bury deep and take you to much darker places and all with the same tools. The same rich pallet is employed here as it swirls and builds with intricate subtlety around Berninger's baritone hum. Having their own studio and the gift of time afforded them space to obsess over every minute of this record, but instead of suffocating under these conditions it thrives - and it takes a skilled group of musicians with enough self awareness to achieve such a result. Speaking about their approach to High Violet, Aaron Dessner says "Matt expressed a desire to hear things that "sounded like hot tar. Or loose wool." This goes some way to describe the finished product that is High Violet. Songs like Sorrow and A Little Faith drip out with such thickness that given a decent pair of headphones it's quite easy to lose yourself in their density. Anyone's Ghost and Afraid Of Everyone are hollow depictions of loneliness and isolation, while Bloodbuzz Ohio continues where the Boxer heights left us.
Seeing them on their tour of Boxer I was quite worried to witness the bloated endings that seemed to have been tacked on to most of the songs. At the tail and of the vocals the Dessners' would step forth tho the front of the stage and elevate each song to a Wilco like frenzy of feverish guitars, and it really didn't suit their style. High Violet opener Terrible Love does this too but I am very pleased to see the restraint that this album shows and it never does it again. Given their astonishing rise this band would be forgiven for letting some of it go to their heads but this record shows this not to be the case. It is a work of admirable restraint yet progressive enough to honor the memory of what's gone before.
13th May 2010 - Tumblr4
You & Me
Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs Of Mark Mulcahy
A Skin, A Night / The Virginia EP
Thoughtful, stylish drama with a zen central performance.
17th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Stiff, poorly paced innovative film that hasn’t aged well.
11th Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Inspiring, tightly scripted gem - overlooked by lockdown.
4th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Standard-issue airplane movie, with Joel Kinnaman standing in for Vin Diesel.
3rd Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Sub LA Confidential gumshoe thriller - with an underplayed USP. Ed Norton misses again.
27th Sep 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Over explained threequel, that undermines a low key original.
18th Sep 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Intriguing, but generally incomprehensible sci-fi gobbledegook.
31st Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
The Next Level
Marginally less fun sequel, but still plenty of laughs.
16th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Beautifully imagined and lovingly restored, but it still alternates between a snail’… https://t.co/6bZj694rnx.
12th Aug 2020Read more star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable plane movie, though it owes a lot to the magnificent Copland.
8th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Tension-free Bateman rom com. Lacking rom and com.
8th Aug 2020Read more 2 star reviews
Incredibly stylish and wannabe cerebral sci-fi, that’s ultimately a little thin.
19th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Underwhelming space drama that’s a bit too intimate and not very epic.
5th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Dire, tension-free postcode gang drama. Just add drama.
21st Jun 2020Read more 1 star reviews
Magnificent documentary, re-assembling the moon landing from beautifully remastered footage.
14th Jun 2020Read more 4 star reviews
The 8th slow-paced Tarantino pic. Literally half entertaining / boring.
24th May 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Entertaining Brit-com, though it’s a bit on-the-beaten-path for Danny Boyle.
13th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Mildly enjoyable, thoroughly forgettable Nick Hornby pic ...once you get past the contrived set up.
4th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Kid-friendly(ish), super fun superhero movie.
23rd Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Impeccably realised remake, but it’s emotionally flat.
15th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Standard festival thriller, with some style and decent moments - but it’s all a bit thin.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable, Guy Ritchie-fied Disney remake.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Cookie cutter biography that could literally have been written from his Wikipedia page.
7th Mar 2020Read more 1.5 star reviews
Text book indie, literally days out of Sundance. Interesting until it gets a bit too wacky.
9th Feb 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Strong slice of 90s skate nostalgia. Slow and subtle.
8th Feb 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
25th Jan 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
31st Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Yet another biggest-battle-yet, with more than a passing nod to BTTF2.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Decent origin story, with charm and some 90s nostalgia.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Rise of Skywalker
Freestyle bouillabaisse with all the ingredients, but no chef.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Quintessential indie movie ...funded by Netflix. Great perfs, lovely camera work and solid direction.
22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Superior modern thriller. Smart script and accomplished direction.
15th Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Long, slow, thoroughly enjoyable loose jam through Scorsese/DeNiro/Pacino/Pesci/Keitel’s greatest hits.
2nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
28th Nov 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Casual drama from Clint Eastwood, with the man himself anchoring things through a charming turn.
16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Luscious period drama. Beautifully put together - like Wolf Hall+.
3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish but incoherent Cheney biopic, hampered by another one-note turn from Bale.
5th Oct 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Mind numbingingly basic biopic, saved by the nostalgia for the music and moments.
5th Oct 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Interesting doc following the lives of 3 teens becoming adults, tied together by skateboarding.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Painful, occasionally uplifting viewing with a grief stricken central performance.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Into the Spider-Verse
Stylish, trippy concept animated superhero flick with some great moments.
21st Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Young adult upgrade, with just enough Conchords humour to keep it enjoyable.
22nd Aug 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent Aussie surf drama, that nostalgically investigates the soul of surfing before losing its way a little.
14th Aug 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
13th Jul 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Predictably grim seaside coming-of-age indie. Decent enough, but you’ve seen it before
13th Jul 2019Read more 3 star reviews