So lift off love.
2008 started off rather sluggishly for me – little could get me back into the groove, new albums were passing me by, me waving them off disinterestedly – until Mr Berninger came along. It is now month number five: the earth moved; waves crashed; and I found a new favourite band.
Boxer, The National
May 22, 2007
The National, I am ashamed to say, taught me a few lessons.
I had stumbled upon The National’s Boxer often enough while browsing through quite a number of best of 2007 lists, but had been dismissing it due to the… manly, rough-tough, pugilistic implications in its title (which I eventually came to know, is anything but). But I suspect it was also precisely that, that made me had a go at it in the end.
The tunes on Boxer are anthemic yet restrained; powerful yet subtle; but all finely polished with lead singer Matt Berninger’s deep baritone, who takes up singing duties in the band because “he’s taller, blonder, and older than the rest”. They probably also conveniently forgot to mention that he looks pretty hot. Ahem.
The tracklist seemed to be arranged as such: the opening tracks like the almost-epic “Fake Empire”, lead single “Mistaken for Strangers” and fast-paced, stalker-ish “Brainy” were strong enough to make one immediately sit up and take notice; the album then slowly drifts off to safer (and milder) territory, only to have it pick up momentum again with the fabulous and affecting “Ada” before ending on a high with the hauntingly melancholic “Gospel”.
After a few listens, I had only this equation (which I doubt does them all any justice) in mind: Sufjan Stevens + Editors + Doves = The National.
… in short, Boxer is one brilliant album.
And I have been hooked ever since. Hooked enough to even dig into the band’s history and go back in time to listen to their earlier albums, which were all equally smashing as well. I am always late, am I not?
So there, folks:
Lesson learnt 1: do not judge an album by its name. Ever.
Lesson learnt 2: bah, so what if the band name is not google-able?
Lesson learnt 3: do not stop – continue The National music education with Alligator (2005), Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003), and their self-titled debut album (2001).
The Seldom Seen Kid, Elbow
March 17, 2008
It is about time that Mancunian band Elbow return to the music scene – this time with The Seldom Seen Kid, their previous effort Leaders of the Free World being three years ago.
Standout tracks include opener “Starlings”, which seems to start off seemingly breezily before it attacks with jarring orchestral blasts which needs some getting used to; the “Summertime”-sampling “The Bones of You” (frankly, it reminds me of the computer game Diablo); and the lovely “Mirrorball”.
However, I feel it is the mighty and stomping track number four “Grounds for Divorce” that makes up an integral part of this album – it sets up the overall direction and feel of this album, somehow making it slightly different from their previous effort.
Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie
May 12, 2008
Lead single “I Will Possess Your Heart” could be the only reason why I have Death Cab for Cutie’s latest album Narrow Stairs in this list for now. There were some concerns that the song was too long, clocking in at 8:35 minutes, but I thought its introduction leads up nicely to the heart to the song.
The new album, with its many slow songs, looks to be a grower – only time will tell. Still, I think the best from the band is still 2003’s Transatlanticism – it is certainly not easy to top that one.
Other upcoming releases for 2008:
Coldplay, Doves, Islands, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Morrissey. See Metacritic’s release calendar here.