Music has the uncanny way of taking you right back to that moment, those few months, in a way nothing else can. Sometimes it's apparent right away which albums will be able to do that, and the National's sophomore effort, Boxer, is one of those albums.
Beginning with the brooding "Fake Empire" until the last measures of "Gospel," I know that in ten years when I give this record a spin I will remember the sudden June rainstorm, strong iced coffee on the walk to the subway, BLT brunches, and closing down the local bar at 4 a.m. on a Thursday.
It all has a noirish feel too it, a post-modern David Lynch noir, in which everything is just a little creepy yet somehow fanciful, a Brooklyn-in-the-21st-century noir. This band of Ohio transplants itself solidified after settling in this New York City borough. Matt Berninger delivers with a baritone sex-addled deadpan, guitars hang from the ceiling like the now eponymous antler chandeliers, and the drums pulse like ventricles against low slurring strings and the droning keyboards.
"Green Gloves" is a railroad apartment lullaby, all layered with plucky guitars and rolling keyboards. "Slow Show" is a driving, accordion and tambourine decorated amble, like a stroll through McCarren park on a Saturday afternoon--watching the kickball tournaments and all those huge sunglasses. "Fake Empire" is a perfect single--an instant bar classic to be played on repeat. The horns are magnificent. When The National get a song right, they get it just right. Although there are moments where form falls apart, as in "Racing Like a Pro," an intricate lament that gets stuck on the repetitive chorus that begins with, "Your mind is racing like a pro now."
Boxer is an instantly listenable time capsule. Whenever I want to remember living in a third-floor walk up with tin ceilings in the kitchen, recall a time when Greenpoint wasn't overrun with metal and glass condos, and all things summer of '07, I will be playing it. • Katy Henriksen