18.) The Walkmen - Bows + Arrows (2004)
If I'm being honest (and I should always be honest, right?) Bows + Arrows could have literally just been "The Rat" ten times in a row (or even just once, just one song - release it as a record and...) and it would have made the list. Most bands never get to make a song like "The Rat". It just doesn't happen all that often. There will be bands that have records that land higher on this list who haven't made a single song as good as "The Rat". It's lightning in a bottle and thank you to The Walkmen for making it. It's a great song. Fierce and passionate and catchy. It made you feel like a kid if you weren't one and, hopefully, made you happy you still were one if you were.
Alright, that's "The Rat" portion of this write-up. Truth is, Bows + Arrows is more than just that one great song. It's ten. It's ten great songs coming together like a music Voltron and beating people up (listen, that was a really stupid analogy because I guess all the records on this list are that, you know? I have half a mind to just erase it all, but I won't - warts and all ya'll!)
Ok. Back to one. I really liked the Walkmen's first record, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, but I thought it meandered a bit. There were some great songs, but as a whole it lacked the impact that Bows + Arrows would have. Where Everyone sometimes stalled, Bows + Arrows fights back. It never lets up. And that's not to say it's a ten song rock 'n roll juggernaut - it's not - there are quiet moments as well, but these turn out to be some of the most focused and best songs on the record. "No Christmas While I'm Talking", aside from "The Rat", is my favorite Walkmen song of all time and it's also one of their most subdued. It's all atmosphere and a slurry Ham Leithauser vocal, but it's an important song on the record, sequenced right after "The Rat" as a sort of comedown track, but the type of comedown track that doesn't let you breath. I hang on every moment of that song. It's still thrilling. That's what makes Bows + Arrows work. It's a record.
Bows + Arrows also finds The Walkmen sounding quite confident in their abilities, not condescending or cocky, just confident. It's as if they know this is a big moment so why not just fucking attack it?
On a personal note, I was 23 when Bows + Arrows came out and I have such distinct and fond memories of that time in my life. It was definitely a transition point for me and without getting into it I was meeting new people and developing new friendships and one of my most important and lasting friendships was scored by this record - others as well, but whenever I hear Bows + Arrows I always think of one of my best friends, Sarah and to me that's what music is about. It's about helping you remember times, good and bad, and the best records stick with you for so long that they become so of a time and place and that's what Bows + Arrows does for me. So this is to NYC roof parties and cold nights waiting to get into SNL after-afters and to lots and lots of beers and lots and lots of fun with my pal, Sarah.
Posted by Pat Driscoll