And the winner of the Best Album award for 2007 is…
THE NATIONAL – BOXER
No record has come close to affecting us this (or any other) year quite as much as Boxer has. What made it all the more remarkable was that our love affair with Alligator, The National’s magnificent 2005 album, was still going strong when Boxer was released in May.
In truth, it took us a good few listens to begin to appreciate the greatness within. Fake Empire and Slow Show were instant classics that seemed to stand head and shoulders above everything else. But strangely, magically, new favourites seemed to emerge weekly.
There was the no-nonsense driving rock of Apartment Story, the U2-ish guitar sounds of Guest Room and, more recently, the screeching, spiky brilliance of Brainy. The fact we didn’t get these songs immediately seems almost unthinkable now but, for us, it makes Boxer an even more rewarding listening experience.
In terms of musicianship and lyrical creativity, Boxer is without parallel. We can’t think of another album in which the drumming is the first thing that stands out and gives every song an immediate sense of intensity.
The rest of the band are also at the peak of their powers, while singer Matt Berninger finds new ways to express the depths of his imagination with lyrics such as “Looking for somewhere to stand and stay/ I leaned on the wall and the wall leaned away” and “Tiptoe through our shiny city with our diamond slippers on/ Do our gay ballet on ice/ bluebirds on our shoulders”.
And so it was our pleasure and privilege to meet Matt (above), who accepted the award for Boxer on behalf of The National.
THE POP COP: Well done, Matt. Your band is the winner of The Pop Cop’s inaugural award for the Best Album of 2007. How does it feel?
MATT: Nice…[looks at award] I was thinking, ‘That’s not our album cover’.
THE POP COP: It’s our website logo.
MATT: Now I remember. That’s awesome. Cool. Thank-you very much. We’ll hang this in the bus.
THE POP COP: What has Boxer meant to you this year?
MATT: In terms of our career as a band, it has been a big thing for us. Alligator started people paying attention so we knew we had an opportunity to walk through the door that was cracked open by it.
When we finished Boxer none of us had a clue what people were going to think. It doesn’t have some of the loud, screaming songs that were on Alligator so there was a moment of ‘we may have blown it’. We didn’t know what kind of record we were making but when it was done we were all really happy. It’s very satisfying and validating for us to say that people have responded to it. It’s changed things for us a lot.
THE POP COP: Are you surprised at just how much people have loved Boxer?
MATT: It has had great reviews but we’re just starting to get a sense of overall how many people it has reached from how many people have been coming to shows. We’ve never played in front of so many people on a tour so it’s starting to sink in now that it’s a huge step for us. We’re all excited and a little surprised that it’s connected so well.
We’ve always been climbing, scraping, trying to knock on doors and scratch through the windows, but it feels like we’ve finally gotten somewhere. It’s not like we’re international stars or anything but the cement has dried and we’re standing firmly in a place that we never knew if we’d ever get to.
The rest of The Pop Cop’s exclusive interview with Matt Berninger is here
The full top 10 countdown of our best albums of 2007 is here
4 The National – Brainy