In the croaking voice of Matt Berninger and the towering sonic details of the National, the doomed Walter Mitty — with his decrepit fantasies and enervating ennui — finds a near-perfect rock expression. On the band's 2010 album, High Violet, a cascade of guitars, organs and circular drum patterns recalls The Unforgettable Fire — and then forgets that touchstone, embracing instead its own wonder wall of sound. The arrangements are as thrilling as the narrator's life is tediously surreal. "I still owe money to the money I owe," Berninger chants on "Bloodbuzz Ohio," a grandly droning anthem for the new recession. Violet's woodwinds, strings and chorale vocals send the mid-tempo obsessions into freefall. It's the sound of a band remaking itself and triumphing in the reinvention.
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