At the center of every album is a musical thesis. For The National's album, "Boxer," there is a focused sadness. I think it is worth pausing here for a moment. This band often gets incorrectly labeled as "sad dad rock" music. There are a number of reasons for this assessment: their age, their gender, convenience, and those who listen to them. When I listen to this music. I don't picture a balding man holding on to his youth, wearing a layered argyle sweater, wishing he could be a better father and partner. Instead, I see myself. I see a man who is constantly questioning his place in the world because I know I only get one shot at this thing and I better make the most of it. That feeling is a complex emotion and it often makes me feel sad. I relate to this music because they are speaking my language and those words are hard for me to say.
They speak of love as if it is war. When they talk about relationships, I picture two combatants in separate corners of the bedroom coming together every once in a while to battle, lay down their arms, and/or let peace prevail. Now, of course, a loving relationship is not always like this. There are extreme moments of euphoria when all seems right in the world. Then there are moments like the examples provided on this record. These moments are authentic and they remind me that I am not alone. When my partner and I go to war, we should do so with the hope of both exiting victors on the other side. To do so with any other intention is a clear sign you shouldn't be in a relationship.
These relationship battles define us. They either make us better people or far worse. They either make us a better couple or far worse. Here is the secret though and this album reveals it; we get to choose. We can start a war, lay down our arms, or work to come to some sense of mutual understanding. The choice is ours. We shouldn't let emotions or poor choices cloud our judgment. We should be able to look the person we love in the eyes and know why we are fighting. "Boxer" makes that crystal clear to me. For that, it will forever be anchored in my mind in the event any battle should arise.
Be good to each other,