The Walkmen – Heaven
Thu 31st May, 2012 in Music Reviews
One of indie’s hardest working bands, New Yorkers The Walkmen consistently improve upon their signature sound to deliver quality material. Across their twelve-year career, Hamilton Leithauser’s distinctive Rod Stewart-esque vocals are utilised to perfection in lyrics ranging from clever cynicism, all-out romance, and upbeat pop songs – Bows + Arrows’ The Rat, You and Me’s Canadian Girl, and Lisbon’s Woe Is Me respectively – presented with pride upon the fruits of the labour of the band’s old-soul instrumentalists. On their seventh studio album, Heaven, we see a band more mature and deliberate in their work, and not a beat is missed along the way. A mutli-faceted group that delivers on all promises, The Walkmen present to you their interpretation of heaven on earth.
Beginning with the slow tempo of We Can’t Be Beat, Heaven manages to showcase all the talents of a band so attuned to one another that it comes across as effortless. The slow burn of plucked acoustic guitar soon gives way to the 50s back up singing and country-tinged howls of Leithauser. Typical Walkmen styling is all over second track Love Is Luck, resplendent in jangly guitars and Matt Marrick’s restrained drums. Album highlight Heartbreaker made its Australian debut at last year’s Harvest festival, also featuring at The Walkmen’s glorious sideshows alongside the like-minded The National. On record it does not falter; its surf-tinged pop would sit well on previous album Lisbon, and displays some of the exuberance found on their debut LP. The sheer talent of the five-piece permeates both recording and their live shows, which makes the band’s appeal even more enduring.
Theatrical The Witch features more keys than the previous two albums, along with haunting howls and calculated lyrics. Southern Heart is a delicate, raw exercise in sorrow, where the debonair Leithauser croons, “tell me again how you loved all the men you were after”, to the end. This is followed by the equally pared-back Line By Line, providing a soft, sensitive middle to this strong record. Song For Leigh is a beautifully layered ballad with country tendencies, periodically building into rasps of “sing myself sick about you”, amid gentle organs.
The bombast of Nightingales is well-timed, where sleigh bells and quiet spots hark back to the Bows + Arrows era, albeit with more polish. The Love You Love is an ideal single, with the desperation of Interpol and the rough charm of The Strokes. The titular track is a more mature Walkmen, with hopeful lyrics and just enough production gloss. No One Ever Sleeps is a Cold War Kids segue-way that leads into the mournful closer Dreamboat, a repeated chorus of “no, no, no, no, no”, that floats amongst gorgeous vintage guitar.