High Violet

The National are rousing-rock sad sacks in a time-honored tradition: Joy Division, the Cure, Nick Cave. With their fifth set, perhaps the sad-sackiest yet, they embody their own era. Singer Matt Berninger's gorgeous baritone is still the band's main selling point: Listen to the mopey sexiness of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" as he describes undressing "at the foot of your love." Yet the tension comes mainly from composers Aaron and Bryce Dessner: The music is some of their lushest and darkest, especially the ghostly, droning "Afraid of Everyone." "All the very best of us/String ourselves up for love," Berninger repeats near the set's end, a lusty barroom singalong for all us lonely people. Where do we all come from?

x