Fat Possum (2012)Something remarkable happens at the 1:40 mark of “We Can’t Be Beat,” Heaven‘s infectious, yet meditative opener. Woven between a patchwork of acoustic plucking and frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s cocktail bar croon, the signature sound of the Walkmen’s spiraling guitars peeks its head from behind the musical thicket, if only for a few seconds.
It’s a pleasant reminder that—despite 10 years into their career—the listener is still strapped alongside the same quartet that wrote “The Rat,” the same foursome known for their graceful brand of raucous twentysomething melancholy.
Yet on their sixth offering, hearts polished “with gin and cigars” have been replaced by references to band members’ children and creeping old age, a fact that doesn’t always play to the strengths of the band. “A Song for Leigh” smothers the listener with a little too much lovey-dovey, and while “Line by Line” may shimmer, it inhabits a musical estuary that any casual Walkmen fan has waded through before.
Make no mistake though, this is a Walkmen album, through and through.
Fans have plenty of reason to rejoice in the seemingly effortless manner by which the band is now able to craft catchy mid-tempo rockers like “Heartbreaker” and the title track, which meld power pop and a dash of new wave into their unmistakable sound.
More significantly, producer Phil Ek (The Shins, Fleet Foxes) blends perfectly into the mix; his contributions are subtle, and never overbearing.
Leithauser’s protagonists remain interesting, whether it’s the cuckolded vampire on the acoustic “Southern Heart” or all those star-crossed lovers that never seem to get old as long as the emphatic crooner is at the helm.
The Walkmen’s music has always evoked the grey scale tones of the Roaring Twenties, and Leithauser’s references to “our gilded age” and “golden light years” only prolong the band’s love for glory days past.
Rather than obsess themselves with major changes or sounding younger than they are, the relaxed attitude with which the band approached this album is evident, making for a comforting, organic listen.
Heading into the second decade of their existence, one can’t help but hold a childlike level of giddiness about what lies around the bend.
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