Okay, let's get something straight. Brooklyn-based indie rock band The National seem to be a very talented bunch. Their latest album, Boxer, picks up from where they left off on 2005's critically praised Alligator. Matt Berninger's distinct vocals are in fine form as is Bryan Devendorf's drum playing. And yet it all feels too contrived, too blahzay -- just another sensitive college rock album to tug at the heartstrings. It's like the group hasn't even listened to the best of what indie music has offered (Bright Eyes, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, Elliot Smith, Feist, Sufjan Stevens [more on Stevens later]) in the past decade, preferring to look to the previous millennium for inspiration. Don't get me wrong, there are stand out cuts: "Fake Empire," "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Green Gloves" to name a few. Even the aforementioned Sufjan Stevens makes a guest appearance on Boxer on the tracks " Ada" and "Racing Like a Pro," so in some regards there must be something to this band if Mr. Stevens has the fortitude to lend his services free of charge. I just don't hear it.