Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Walkmen - Heaven added to 2012 Recommended Albums

I can't honestly say I've dug too deeply into the Walkmen's discography (not enough hours in a day). I was introduced to their music through their 2010 album Lisbon, which unfortunately didn't resonate with me well. But I was still pretty excited to hear Heaven after they released the title track as the lead single. Clearly a standout track, "Heaven" builds beautifully over crystal-clear guitar arpeggios, to the point where Hamilton Leithauser's emotions are set free at the chorus: "Don't leave me/ You're my best friend/ All of my life/ You've always been".

Leithauser must have one of the best voices in modern rock, the way he accentuates every syllable to convey the drama of the music, and the stories behind it. Because Heaven is full of great stories, principally dealing with themes of love and heartbreak. "Southern Heart" is a particularly tender acoustic ballad in which Leithauser croons his desire in the face of his lover's infidelity. Every moment is paired with backing that when compared to previous attempts is very straightforward. This is not only provided by the band but also producer Phil Ek and guest backing vocalist Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes).

The complex artistry of Lisbon may have reached saturation; the Walkmen were of course trying to mature with that album but somehow to me it didn't feel as dynamic or exciting as it could have. Instead it seems that taking the most immediate path with their songs has paid off well, and has allowed their music to remain fresh and exciting. Heaven is out now via. Bella Union/ Fat Possum, and is still streaming over at NPR Music for the time being; give it a listen here if you haven't already.

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