Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Top 50 Albums of the 00s - #38: The National - Boxer

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

In one of their many effective internet commercials Barack Obama's team chose the first track from this album, "Fake Empire" to provide the emotional context they were going for. The effect was inspiring. Whether Obama wanted to send a message with such a title while running for president can be debated, but they didn't really get to the lyrics. That track sets the tone for a highly polished, light-on-its-feet rock album.

There's a darkness throughout the record that borders on moroseness. But then again, there's some hope buried underneath all the gloom. It would border on tediousness if not for the brilliant production. It sounds as though lead singer Matt Berninger is in one room and the band is in another. Normally this idea would lead to a complaint yet that effect works perfectly. True to the lyrics of that opening track, he sounds like he's half-asleep. But his low croon provides the rudder that keeps the record on its steady pace.

The crowning achievement here is "Apartment Story," one of the most relistenable songs I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. That track pretty much put the album in this Top 50 all on its own. The last song, "Gospel," has a slow build and is the closest we get to a moment of sweetness as the lyric goes, "Darlin' can you tie my string...?" It's almost a little cheesy, but with Bernginger's delivery, it's not earnest enough to get that far, instead acting as the perfect comedown even though we were never so high to begin with.

I have no idea if I'll come back to this record in future years or not. But for now, its peaceful groove fills the background perfectly, no matter the situation.

Previous Entries:
#39 - Hot Water Music - Caution
#40 - Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy
#41 - Gogol Bordello - Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike
#42 - Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
#43 - Ladyhawk - Ladyhawk
#44 - José González - In Our Nature
#45 - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
#46 - Caribou - Andorra
#47 - Mastodon - Crack the Skye
#48 - Shout Out Louds - Howl Howl Gaff Gaff

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