Release Date: May 29, 2012
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Originally a second–tier New York garage band, The Walkmen grew into their own large‐hearted sound. Heaven is their most expansive LP, alternating shaggy ballads with songs like "The Witch," a U2–huge waltz about pondering the future. Listen to 'Heaven': Related Photos: Random Notes.
Review Summary: Our crooked dreams will always glow.I feel old. Not, of course, in the physical sense – according to the fine people at the census, I’m in the prime of my life – but damn are these numbers weighing me down. However high or low a certain decimal point is determines how many zeroes I will be making in two years time. I need to watch those points piling up on a license to keep low the amount of dollars on my insurance policy.
Sometimes, in music as it is in life, the most memorable and rewarding journeys are those beset with challenges, detours and the hand of the unexpected on the tiller. Thus has it been with the captivating trajectory and evolution of The Walkmen. Second album breakthrough miracle ‘The Rat’ may have been the lightning bolt that fused them to our hearts but even more stirring was the way that when Bows + Arrows and A Hundred Miles Off failed to afford them significant commercial reception, the band pushed their boat out into misty, troubled waters with cryptic-crossword puzzle of You and Me, before kicking for home with the sprawling, terse and tense Lisbon.
Yet, Heaven is a post–You & Me record, a document informed irretrievably by a moment in the not-too-distant past when everything changed forever. You & Me—which should, by all accounts, due to the logic of good taste, be considered their best—was in 2008, after four albums that functionally defined the band’s blown-out garage sound as saliently as possible, the means by which The Walkmen discovered subtlety and reinvigorated their music by stripping back the maudlin wash and rooting around at their tender core. On Heaven, Ek translates that subtlety as an aesthetic of extremes: “We Can’t Be Beat” creaks with triumph; “Dreamboat” aches, every Walkmen song before it seemingly so much less sad; and everything in between is blissful and heartbreaking in equal, clearly portioned measure.
A few weeks ago, songs from the Walkmen’s Heaven started leaking. "Southern Heart,” the gentle centerpiece on their seventh album, was leaked via a poorly-recorded boot from a Dutch radio show. These low-bitrate leaks are the norm for bigger bands these days, and usually they’re just a diversionary nuisance, but something about this crappy version grabbed me.
For a decade now, The Walkmen have cultivated a distinct sound. Paul Maroon, Walter Martin, Matt Barrick, Peter Bauer and Hamilton Leithauser consistently produce albums with a mix of jangly post-punk guitars, deep bass lines, echoing drums, vintage instrumentation and Leithauser’s drawn-out, earnest vocals. Even 2010’s sparse Lisbon follows the formula.
"I was the Duke of Earl, but it couldn't last/ I was the pony express, but I ran out of gas." This is the first thing Hamilton Leithauser sighs on the Walkmen's new album, Heaven. It is a distinctly un-rock'n'roll sentiment. In fact, it sounds like the sort of thing your grandpa might say. Ten years ago, the Walkmen were a magnetic, messy young rock band, and they did all the things we expect young rock bands to do: swung in unexpectedly on friends, drunk-dialed exes, pleaded pathetically that things would get better with zero evidence that they would.
We start to worry when a great artist ceases to be an element — when there seems to be something pushing against each successive album, to the point where they can no longer rest on the virtues of the first impression. Rather than squeezing “underwater pianos” into a sentence, the cool, round, icy keyboard progressions that drove “We’ve Been Had” and “Stop Talking” from Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone were as solid a confection as this pop/rock fan has ever swooned to. But The Walkmen never let themselves become gimmicky or rote as they went on.
Walkmen album FAQ #1: no, ‘The Rat’ isn’t on it. Rat fans, indeed, have been increasingly disappointed since 2004’s ‘Bows + Arrows’ that The Walkmen have shunned vermin-smothered dancefloors in favour of the languid ballroom, developing a sophisticated take on bequiffed croon-pop that, on this seventh album, makes them sound like the ’50s band The Strokes were trying to copy all along. Merging Arcade Fire’s warble, Link Wray’s twang and Tony Bennett’s wink to the ladies, they concoct beauteous bouts of romantic desolation in ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Song For Leigh’ that, you could imagine, play in Miles Kane’s head when he gets dumped.
The WalkmenHeaven[Fat Possum; 2012]By Brendan Frank; June 1, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThe Walkmen are one of the more quietly brilliant bands out there. Their transition from brash, angst-ridden young adults into sublimely unobtrusive songwriters has been a joy to behold, with nary a misstep in their entire ten year career. Heaven, the band’s sixth original album (and seventh overall), is an impeccably smooth, easy-to-swallow collection of songs.
Happiness writes white, the maxim goes. Similarly, it's just as difficult to write songs about contentment that aren't boring, or worse, smug. However, the Walkmen manage to pull this off on Heaven, which they recorded during the celebration of the band's tenth anniversary. Just how far the band has come since the Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone days is reinforced throughout the album, from the pictures of the bandmembers with their families to Phil Ek's clean but unobtrusive production.
THE WALKMEN play the Molson Amphi theatre on August 2. See listing. Rating: NNNN The Walkmen's seventh album oozes the kind of easy confidence that happens when a band's been working hard on its craft for a dozen years. This is especially evident in Hamilton Leitheuser's vocals. He's downright ….
If one were to infer that maturity could be measured in any way, then the time usually comes in that period in your life after your physical growth has stopped and you are fully developed. For all intents and purposes, it’s relative. When looking at it from the perspective of grown men, he reaches maturity when he appears to be the embodiment of perfection in some very specific criteria.
Jorge Luis Borges once claimed of his life that “in the long run, all of it would be converted into words. Particularly the bad things, since happiness does not need to be transformed: happiness is its own end.” This isn’t another nod to the tortured artist but rather to the nature of happiness. That happiness does not invite exploration because it does not need to be explained.
For their seventh album, Heaven, The Walkmen hired Phil Ek (Built To Spill, The Shins, Modest Mouse, Les Savy Fav, etc.) to handle production duties. It's safe to assume this choice had something to do with The Walkmen opening for Fleet Foxes last year, as Ek produced both of Fleet Foxes' LPs. Ek is a superb choice, and it's not surprising The Walkmen would want to work with him.
NYC’s Walkmen recently celebrated their 10th anniversary by playing a series of two hour sets that found them revisiting older material while preparing new music for this, their seventh studio release. The word “mature” can be a curse for a once scrappy outfit that covered Nilsson’s entire Pussy Cats album, but Heaven is clearly the work of a veteran band. The songs range from the near U2-isms of “Nightingales” to the punky garage beat of “The Love You Love” and the skeletal Velvet Underground sparseness of the closing “Dreamboat,” all propelled by singer Hamilton Leithauser’s distinctive yearning croon.
With an impressive back-catalogue and metronomic consistency another album from The Walkmen meeting mild critical acclaim was one of the surest bets of the year. Starting over ten years ago in the garage rock New York scene that gave us the likes of The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Walkmen somehow avoided the hype of the bands around them, offering a reserved, dignified alternative, taking pride in not being quite so “rock and roll”. With their maturity and ability almost unquestionable, as highlighted by the very well received 2010 release ‘Lisbon’, the question became where to next? What could be added to the mixture, what could be further refined? On paper at least the answer was anything but obvious.
It is ten years since The Walkmen's first record Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, and their newest (seventh) release feels like something of an elegant coda to work they started all those years ago. Perhaps it is partly bound up in the visual imagery, not just evoked, but stated in the recent promotional photographs of the band by Arno Frugier, which look like they have emerged from a faded family album, around the turn of the twentieth century. They instantly recall the Lewis W.
After their early years as a buzzy New York City (via Washington, D. C. ) outfit filed just below other area acts like the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol in terms of popularity, the Walkmen are the ones who can best sing a harmony-rich “We Can’t Be Beat” at this stage.
A record with the power to grab your heart, like an ex-lover you just can't shake off. Chris Beanland 2012 How you feel about listening to the sound of a band "maturing" is inextricably tied up with whether or not you believe that rock'n'roll is at its best when the preserve of the snarling, chaotic and hungry young. The Walkmen have been around for over a decade now – so youth isn’t quite on their side these days.