The Walkmen - Heaven | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
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The Walkmen

Heaven

The Walkmen continue aging elegantly.

Comments (0)
Author: on June 8, 2012
8.5
Fat Possum Records
May 29, 2012

I am beginning to feel like it is unfair to simply expect excellence from The Walkmen. Not so much in regards to us as listeners, or even to fellow musicians as their peers. I view this conundrum as affecting the band in question more so than anyone else. Since their second-record coming-out-party in 2004’s Bows + Arrows – save the misfire A Hundred Miles Off (2006) — this NYC-based band has translated their love for vintage instrumentation eloquently. Opining on blue-collar love in an age of media over-saturation The Walkmen have always occupied this unique position of an aged youth, a band who from the get-go professed a level of gravitas and experience even as they were only two albums deep; “The Rat” came across as a widescreen tale. “You’ve got a nerve/To be asking a favor,” Hamilton Leithauser exclaimed bitterly amongst screeching guitars. Yet it is this same serene vitriol with which The Walkmen have usually approached their music that lends such an invigorating dichotomy to their work.

Turn deaf ears on all that we don’t wanna hear,” Leithauser explains on “Lisbon” from their 2010 record of the same name. The song is pristine, sure, elegantly illustrating an otherwise enjoyable adult life filled with laughing children and married friends. Yet this undercurrent of intrinsic self analysis sheds luscious light over their deceptively coy compositions. Leithauser is never satisfied – pleasant as he may now seem – though it is this drive that probably finds him and his compatriots approaching each new record seemingly like it is their last.

Heaven continues The Walkmen’s pop-arcing; this record is a down-comforter, a pillowy plush landscape of tempered progression, lazy melodies and entrancing harmonies. For how peaceful You & Me (2008) and Lisbon initially came across, this LP sets out submerged in a tranquil pool. Diving deeper than they ever have into the 40s dance-hall aesthetic which a number of their ballads reflect, and merging that with a tinge of 50s beachy rock, the band play to their strengths while simultaneously treading new waters.

Yet they take to these seas as seasoned experts: “Driving through central Michigan/Listening to the country station/Wondering where I stand,” Leithauser illustrates eloquently on “The Witch” amid haunting keys and wiry guitars. Creating an easily enthralling atmosphere – which has never been a talent The Walkmen lacked in — Heaven is still unforgivingly stirring in its composure. The music is built on turmoil but is reflected through understanding and familiarity. “I fill my evenings with images of hazy hereafter,” Leithauser croons on the bourbon-soaked “Southern Heart,” seemingly expressing a pursuit of therapeutic release from the tumultuous relationship the song details. Heaven as a study of the cathartic is a rousing success. As a record? About as inspiring as they get.

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