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Review: The National, Boxer

 

 

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This weekend was Felicia's birthday, and one of the things she received from me was tickets to go see The National in June in Madison, Wisconsin at one of our favorite spots, The High Noon Saloon.

 

 

Luckily, that gives me enough time to become inundated with the band's new album, Boxer, which is set to hit stores May 22.

 

 

There are few bands out that that portray such an understated style of music as The National. "Fake Empire" opens with a quiet piano and a deep monotone voice, as if you were privy to a private show at a dark underground piano bar. My favorite track on the album comes next with "Mistaken for Strangers," which takes on a steady and strong drumline as if it was pulled straight out of an Interpol catalog. The lyrics, "Mistaken for strangers by your own friends" speak of isolation, and the isolated voice of lead singer Matt Berninger throughout the album makes you feel almost alone with the music. The album, as understanded musically as it is vocally, is deep and diverse in tone; on "Apartment Story," Berninger's clear, simple vocals float over a heavily distorted fuzz, but on songs like "Racing Like a Pro" and "Ada," a quick flamenco style guitar holds the energy just enough to match the lyrics.

 

 

The National it seems is a band that relies heavily on the music to pace their albums, particularly Boxer, creating a synergistic relationship with Berninger's vocals rather than simply existing in the periphery or playing over the vocals as so many others do. An understated gem of an album, Boxer is a true testament to the strength of their songwriting and the ability to capture the emotional tone of their songs without overvocalizing or overproducing the music.

 

 

I think Ian of Minneapolis [email protected] Rocks describes the feel of the album well in his preview of Boxer:

 

"Consistently overlooked by the national music media, The National first made some real noise in 2005, when the exquisite Alligator showed up on a number of bloggers/print pubs' "Best Of" features at the end of the year. Defined by Matt Berninger's resonant baritone and sharp lyrics, the band kicked out a number of great twitchy pop songs with shades of country and punk rounding out the edges.

 

 

This new album, Boxer, is not nearly as edgy or nervy. From the outset, Berninger & co. sound self-assured and comfortable, as if the mild success they experienced has given them a serious jolt of confidence. That means that the band eschews the jagged catharsis of "Abel" for more subtly, and luckily, this is a band that does subtle seriously well. The best thing about The National are the little flourishes that make their songs feel so alive, like the swell of horns at the end of "Fake Empire" or the steady build-up in "Apartment Story." Beringer's voice, deep and steady, is some unholy combination of Ian Curtis' monotone and Jim Morrison's swagger, and he dominates the record with his personality. In fact, if I had one complaint about Boxer, it would be that at times it feels a bit like Matt Beringer solo album; the presence of the band is much more subdued than it was on Alligator. There is no sense of "Mr. November"'s unified anxiety. But at the same time, The National are now writing songs that don't just seem anxious, they're writing songs that make anxiety, fear and love palpable..."

 

 

 

-Veritas Lux Mea

 

 

 

 

 

It never really occurred to me, but it's quite intriguing how the author made an Interpol reference. It must be the reason why I like this band. While Interpol is best at making me feel morose, angst-ridden and sometimes in mixed emotions, The National makes me realize the beauty in solitude, and sometimes it makes me actually feel upbeat.

 

 

What do you think about this band?

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  • 7 months later...
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Suprised to see so little love for The National around here.

 

Boxer is easilyup there with In Rainbows & Neon Bible as my album of the year.

 

They're coming out to Austrlia in a month and I'm seeing them in Brisbane & Sydney.

 

Cant wait

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They're definitely an intriguing band, you're right gail :nice:

 

thanks for introducing them to me.

 

I'm also one of those people who couldn't help thinking of Interpol while listening to Mistaken for strangers.

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  • 6 months later...

Im all about this band! Alligator, The Boxer, Under The Cherry Tree are all great. Now The Virginia EP is at the top of my "must listen" list. The live cuts are outstanding. I would love to catch them live sometime. There is a restrained energy about them that puts me in such a great mood.

 

If you get a chance download The Boxer and The Virginia EP. You wont be dissapointed.

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I absolutely love the live versions of About Today and Fake Empire. Without Permission and The Mansion On The Hill are fantastic covers... The National is underated in my opinion. I think if more people listened to The Boxer that their fanbase would grow enormously.

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I got Boxer in the Zavvi sale a few weeks back, but I haven't listened to it yet. So hopefully it will match the reviews

I cant believe you havent heard it yet. Your taste in music is so varied I would have thought for sure you heard it. Hope you like it. Highlights for me Green Gloves, Fake Empire, Ada, Start A War, Mistaken For Strangers, Racing Like A Pro, Slow Show....

 

LOL over 1/2 the album are at least 9 out of 10 and 2 absolute 10's....

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I cant believe you havent heard it yet. Your taste in music is so varied I would have thought for sure you heard it. Hope you like it. Highlights for me Green Gloves, Fake Empire, Ada, Start A War, Mistaken For Strangers, Racing Like A Pro, Slow Show....

 

LOL over 1/2 the album are at least 9 out of 10 and 2 absolute 10's....

 

Ha might aswell say the whole albums a highlight. I listened to The Virginia EP and its sooooo gooood:smug:

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Im glad you liked it. Great minds! ;)

 

I am looking forward to their next album already. I cant wait to hear some new material. There hasnt been any word yet as to when they will be releasing one. They have alot of touring coming up and I hope, maybe in early 09.

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For anyone in NYC - the National are playing at Summerstage in Central Park. Should be a great show, if I can manage to get a ticket or bribe my way in as a volunteer ;)

 

And turns out some friends of mine play soccer with the drummer's wife (i think its his wife vs girlfriend). Shes quite cool and very nice. We went to see Kevin Drew's show together one night (i think she went with us, but i had drank a lot so i kinda forgot the details). For all I know the national's drummer was hanging out with us and i was too damn drunk to even realize.

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As said earlier in the thread, they are so underrated and unfortuantly they will probably always will be, really does annoy me how unknown they are in the UK despite how brilliant they are. Saw them at Glastonbury which was of course incredible but even though they headlined the stage they were on, it must have been one of the smallest crowds for that stage I had seen all weekend and no-one ever has a clue who they are whenever I mention them :angry:.

 

Haven't heard all their music yet but Alligator, Boxer and Virginia EP never fail to amaze me, such a brilliant band and I can't wait to see if they can keep slowly growing in the future.

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I cant believe you havent heard it yet. Your taste in music is so varied I would have thought for sure you heard it. Hope you like it. Highlights for me Green Gloves, Fake Empire, Ada, Start A War, Mistaken For Strangers, Racing Like A Pro, Slow Show....

 

LOL over 1/2 the album are at least 9 out of 10 and 2 absolute 10's....

 

My varied taste in music is my downfall, I have quite a big musical backlog of cds to listen to :embarassed:

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  • 11 months later...

found this thread, and have to admit having traveled to see them in NYC last year in Central Park was perhaps one of the best things I ever did. Was even worth the severe sunburn I suffered while there doing the tourist thing.

 

Love all of their stuff, still kicking myself for not getting to see them when they came here to Toronto this year.

 

Of all their songs, the live versions of Fake Empire and About Today are far and away their best.

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