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The Walkmen: Bows + Arrows

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The Walkmen

Album: Bows + Arrows
Label: Record Collection

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New York cool can too often feel like New York cold, and while the city's current standard-bearers have produced some outstanding records, many (if not most) share an aloofness that can run perilously close to total detachment. Not so The Walkmen, which juggles hipness with a gloriously beating heart. Next to The Strokes' stock-still stance, Interpol's gloomy distance, and The Rapture's art-rock scream, The Walkmen's second album, Bows + Arrows, positively exudes warmth and passion. Even more so than the band's excellent debut, Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone, Bows + Arrows captures the seesaw of atmosphere and energy that Walkmen concerts conjure: Organ washes and reverb-heavy guitars open wide spaces, then crash straight through them. Though sonically similar to its predecessor, the new album sets aside whimsical wandering to make room for more straight-for-the-heart (by way of the throat) conviction; simply put, it rocks harder. Case in point: the triumphant "The Rat," a fiery fit that takes a moment to dejectedly reflect, "When I used to go out / I'd know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone / If I go out at all." It's the first song in the Walkmen catalog with honest-to-goodness hit potential, and that includes the band's Saturn-commercial staple "We've Been Had." A good deal of credit goes to singer Hamilton Leithauser, who injects each track here with an uncannily appropriate mood, from a desperate bark on "Little House Of Savages" to a gently defeated conversation on the lovely "Hang On Siobhan" to angry optimism on the album's chugging title track. With each successive recording, The Walkmen's history–as three-fifths of the hype casualty Jonathan Fire*Eater–becomes far less important than its future, not as a potential next big thing or part of a geographical scene, but as a vital and vibrant force of its own.