The National had an unexpected indie hit with 2005's Alligator, a brooding assertive indie rock masterpiece which revealed itself only slowly. What at first listen seemed like strong, guitar-led rock gave up its extra layers on repeated listen. Trying too hard to follow up a success like Alligator could have produced Alligator 2, but The National have avoided that trap, and instead basked in their individuality.
The sound has been enriched with help from producers Peter Katis and Fred Kevorkian (producers of bands like Spoon, Interpol, and Ryan Adams), and there is a guest appearance from Sufjan Stevens. Boxer is still massively unpretentious, and smart and engaging, but the volume is turned down while the darkness is opened up with wry humour. The band's sound recalls Dirty Three and Tindersticks, but they are a whole heap less gimmicky. Boxer requires attention, but it is deeply engaging - it is a better album than Alligator. Whereas that album needed a couple of rockers to make an impression, its success has allowed its successor to stay true to their sound.