The National: Boxer [$14.98]
Brooding, dark, hopelessly romantic, superlatively rock when it wants to be, and almost baroquely classical when it gets tired of that, this is an album to learn to love, track-by-track, play-by-play. All these elements -- the warmth and humanity and musical complexity, the indelible images and koan-like puzzles, the guitar-based rock and classical embellishments -- go a certain distance in explaining why Boxer is so good... but they don't quite explain it. This album, like all great albums, somehow transcends all the factors that makes it work, absorbs them in a seamless whole and breaks your heart in the process. All hail Boxer, one of the finest indie rock albums of the year.