On 2007's BOXER, the National's second full-length album for the venerable Beggars Banquet label, the Brooklyn-based indie-rock act follows up the lauded ALLIGATOR with another round of melancholy guitar-driven tunes. Led by deep-voiced vocalist Matt Berninger, who often sounds hung-over yet disarmingly articulate, the band excels at brooding mid-tempo songs, as exemplified by the world-weary "Fake Empire," which combines political and personal themes, and "Mistaken for Strangers," a track that recalls NYC peers Interpol, thanks in part to the punchy approach of shared producer Peter Katis.
And while his presence isn't immediately apparent, indie hero Sufjan Stevens contributes piano to two tracks ("Racing Like a Pro" and "Ada"), adding to the National's increasingly expansive aesthetic, which also incorporates strings and horns. Though BOXER is more subdued than ALLIGATOR, it will likely appeal to those won over by the earlier outing.
Rolling Stone (p.93) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The songs are subtler, statelier, with Matt Berninger's baritone exuding lonesome warmth."
Spin (p.94) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A]dding brass, piano, and backup singers to unveil high drama of the blunt, uncliched sort unheard since the Afghan Whigs' 90s heyday."
Alternative Press (p.170) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he band mirror the moody nature of the lyrics via genius arrangements, subtle layering and an overwhelming feeling of melancholy that's ultimately strangely reassuring."
CMJ (p.41) - "[BOXER] continues to explore the singer's clever, self-deprecating ruminations, but his band sticks to more controlled,bittersweet tones this time....Its musical nuance makes it feel deeper."
Q (Magazine) (p.78) - Ranked #30 in Q's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2007" -- "[With] Matt Berninger's intimate baritone detailing love's losses over dark, dramatic melodies."