now i go out alone, if i go out at all
While I'm trying not to "rank" the songs in this mix, this one just may be my favorite of 2004. "The Rat" was the first single off of Bows + Arrows, the sophomore album from NYC rockers The Walkmen that was one of the first releases of the year to make the best new music list over at Pitchfork & is probably one of my top three or four discs of 2004. A big improvement (IMO) over their debut LP Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone, Bows + Arrows boasts several songs that I flirted with including on this mix, such as the wistful & lovely "Thinking of a Dream I Had" or the latest single "Little House of Savages" (which you may have seen on The O.C. a couple weeks back), but this thunderous track could not be denied. The guitars are loud & the drums are forceful, working together to propel the song forward, threatening to careen off of the tracks, but somehow keeping it together. Frontman Hamilton Leithauser's vocals are piercing demanding, with an immediacy that's intimidating & oh-so rock 'n roll. The Walkmen always leave me stunned & breathless after this one, but in a good way. Bravo.
ETA (12/9/04): Dave McGonigle offers much better analysis on "The Rat" for Stylus Magazine's Top 40 singles of 2004 list (it ranked #8, fwiw):
“The Rat” plays like a four-and-a-half minute advert for the continuing relevance of heartfelt guitar music in the 21st century, somehow managing to warp the very fabric of reality to drag even ardent dance music fans onto the dancefloor to mosh to an “indie tune”. It's impossible not to be carried along by this song's bunker-busting attack on the listener's emotions—there's a wonderful dichotomy between the anger of the verses (“You've got a nerve to be asking a favour!”) and the shrugging resignation of the chorus (“When I used to go out I would know everyone that I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all”) as hi-hat hits fall like snowflakes in a blizzard. It's a hymn both to the joy of being alive and the messy ups and downs of modern relationships, where the neighbouring emotions of anger, sadness and joy jockey for position in your brain. Unlike an errant partner, The Walkmen'll always be there for you. Return their love, and give “The Rat” a place in your heart.
JRDN commented, "Hamilton should've rocked the army jacket instead of the polo."
Track 01: The Arcade Fire - "Wake Up"
Track 02: Frou Frou - "Let Go"
Oy vey, people. I'm struggling, and this weekend probably won't even help. I hope everyone else's is better than mine will most likely be. Toodles...