The Word :: The National :: Boxer

So we might be a little behind on getting this review out there. People have been blogging about Boxer since it leaked a couple months back. (The best review we've read being Chromewaves', and if you head to his front page right now, you can read his review of their recent live show.) So here's our attempt at getting all you IndieRocketeers out there to pick up what is certain to be one of the year's best.

The National’s 2005 album Alligator was something of a sleeper hit — released to some critical success, it wasn’t until a year later when the video for the anthemic shout-fest 'Abel' hit airwaves that people began to take notice and — as is customary these days — create ridiculous expectations for the follow-up. While some folks have been let down by the absence of angst-drenched throat-rippers like 'Abel,' they are missing out on what can only be described as a musical revelation. Boxer finds singer/songwriter Matt Berninger delivering the same dark poetics we’ve come to expect but with a decidedly more wistful slant.

In album opener 'Fake Empire,' his smoke-filled baritone reminisces about a more quixotic time of 'picking apples / making pies,' but the illusion is shattered with the following line: 'We’re half-awake in a fake empire.' The rest of the album contains similar bittersweet reflections, painting the picture of a gin-soaked almost-ran looking through rose-colored glasses at how his life used to be, only to snatch the glasses off and see the harsh neon haze that his life has become. It’s an album for anyone who has ever sat alone at a bar with beer in hand and regret in pocket.

While this all sounds very dour, there is a hint of hope around the edges and an acknowledgment of the age-old adage that it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. No review of this album would be complete without mentioning drummer Bryan Devendorf, who taps out intricate rhythms with uncanny precision, providing the backbone for the body of music created by the rest of the band, making the sparsest track seem huge and looming. It’s a perfect foil for Berninger’s lyrical passion and cements the album as the masterpiece it is.

4.5 of 5.0

The National Fake Empire

The National also recently appeared on AOL's The Interface. Check it out. There's a free live French radio session up at The Rawking Refuses To Stop that you need to own. And if you missed The National's awesome Blogotheque video, we've got you covered. Whew. We're a bit obsessed. Does it show?

You can buy Boxer and other National music here.

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