The brooding grandeur of both 2005's Alligator and 2007's Boxer helped elevate The National from a band people merely talked about into one they loved. But to keep that momentum, High Violet would have to be spectacular. On first listen, it falls a little short. All the touchstones are there: Matt Berninger's yearning baritone, powerful rhythms, guitars and keys that give the impression you're in a room filled with smoke - but it feels like the band are in a holding pattern.With greater attention however, the record reveals itself to be their most elegant to date. Songs such as Afraid of Everyone and England show Beringer at his most tender and stand as an example of how to write about love and loss without an ounce of schmaltz creeping in. Its subtler approach at first seems like a limitation, but actually becomes its greatest strength.