Thursday, January 10, 2008

The 20 Best Albums of 2007 - The National: "Boxer"

2.  If I had to use one word to describe The National, it would be unassuming. It's easy to listen to the sad drone of Matt Berninger's vocals coupled with the violin and guitar strumming and dismiss the band as a bunch of whiney sad bastards, but that would be completely short-sighted. Time and time again The National have proven themselves as not only a far more dynamic band then at first glance, but also as one of the better rock bands this country has to offer.

If you think that is a bold statement then listen to Boxer and rethink your skepticism. Much like their previous three albums, Boxer grows on you. That's not to say you  need to give it 5-10 listens before it starts sounding good (you don't), but rather with each successive listen more of the album's subtle greatness reveals itself.

"Fake Empire" is a wonderful opener that puts the focus squarely on Berninger's storytelling ability while only giving us a glimpse of the band's rich sound in the final 30 seconds. From there things start to get really interesting as "Mistaken for Strangers" announces it's presence with an emphatic drumbeat that dominates the track without overpowering the rest of the band. Meanwhile, on "Squalor Victoria" the workman-like marching of the drums serves as a perfect backdrop for the moody sound of the violin. If you listen closely (that is, with full attention), nearly every melody on this record is beautiful and dramatic with each instrument working together in perfect disciplined harmony. There's plenty of detail that reveals itself to the patient listener, you just have to be open to finding it. It isn't a difficult thing to do, especially since the music is good enough to warrant exploration in the first place.

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