The National – Boxer
Beggar's Banquet, 2007
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2008
It's hard to believe this came out in 2007. I didn't get into it until after the new year and at the beginning of a nasty break-up. It became my soundtrack to driving around in the middle of winter after midnight smoking cigarettes and letting the cold air hit my face. It was my trying to be a spurned badass. Now it's just a damn fine record. As previously stated: This record sounds like America, and this is best exemplified by “Fake Empire,” which kind of works in the same way as Springsteen's “Born in the USA,” in my head at least. That is, it almost sounds like a song a president would use in a slideshow about how great America is when really it's kind of critical. There's something post-9/11 New York about this one, something that was absent from Alligator. Something about isolation in American culture and the distractions we set up for ourselves to keep from facing the truth. The first time I heard this band was on 96.5 the Buzz and I hated them. Mostly because they were on 96.5 the Buzz and everything that station sells is almost always awful. I can't remember why I was listening to it, I think maybe trying to get an idea of what mainstream radio sounded like after midnight and a bump comes on that says “If you like Interpol, the is your new favorite band” and plays “Mistaken For Strangers.” Then eventually I got the record and was blown away. It's a terribly sad record, a desperate record, even. One where it sounds like everything Matt Berninger is singing is trying to get someone to stay a little longer. Or maybe that's just how I felt when I was listening to this record 5 times a day for two months. “Walk away now/ And you're gonna start a war,” “Let me come over I can waste your time/ I'm bored,” “You know I dreamed about you/ For 29 years before I saw you.” There's a romance to this, and I really do believe this is a record that still hasn't achieved all the praise it's capable of. This is something people are going to be listening to 20 years from now. And honestly, it's not even the lyrics and the singing that sell this thing, that's only 50% of it. Again, the Dessner brothers have some sort of genius between them that makes for making music that's innovative and timeless, which is often a hard balance to strike. This record reminds me of wintertime every time I hear it, and no that winter's coming on again I'm going to have to throw it back into rotation.
Also, I always wondered why this song was chosen as a single, but after watching the video and hearing the song a hundred times it's kind of apparent. It's sneaky, works its way under your skin.