22 May 2013

22nd May - The National's Boxer

Artist – Album: The National – Boxer
Released:  22nd May 2007
Sounds Like: Understated brilliance

Just over a month ago I blogged about The National’s third album Alligator, a special record from a band just beginning to develop their sound. I noted that although the album slightly lacked cohesion, each song was excellent. By the time they released Boxer two years later, they had become nigh on impossible to resist.

The group eschewed the patchy rock songs à la ‘Lit Up’ altogether, and instead constructed an album of dark night, lonely bar songs - still anthemic and, on occasion, joyous, but ultimately lonely and blue. Matt Berninger’s classic baritone voice couldn’t be better suited to these melancholic melodies*, and the way his lyrics have a habit of sneaking up on you is amplified by the brooding atmosphere. That’s not to suggest that these introspective songs are all quiet and hidden in the corner. Opener ‘Fake Empire’ may start softly but it builds to a merry crescendo of splashing drums and upbeat horns. ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ is probably the rockiest of the lot, uptempo and biting. Thereafter things slow down, although the quality never lessens. ‘Brainy’ is a beguiling pseudo-love song. ‘Slow Show’ is a nervous and awkward love/sex song, containing the cracking coda “you know I dreamed about you for twenty-nine years before I saw you”. ‘Ada’  is another highlight, featuring Sufjan Stevens on piano, although I have little idea what it’s about.

The National could stake a claim to be the best band since the turn of the millennium, releasing six captivating albums of wonderful genius, and this, for me, is the finest of the lot.

* As clearly and audibly as the guy himself sings, there’s arguably never been a better example of drunken-mumble-along-ability. Tom Waits maybe?

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Fake Empire – 3:25
2.       Mistaken for Strangers – 3:30
3.       Brainy – 3:18
4.       Squalor Victoria – 2:59
5.       Green Gloves – 3:39
6.       Slow Show – 4:08
7.       Apartment Story – 3:32
8.       Start a War – 3:16
9.       Guest Room – 3:18
10.   Racing Like a Pro – 3:23
11.   Ada – 4:03
12.   Gospel – 4:29

Listen to ‘Slow Show’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz5pskaTNJU

Also released on the 22nd May:
1992: Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies
Also released on the 22nd May:
2006: Hot Chip – The Warning

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