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THE WALKMEN

The Walkmen

Heaven

    'Heaven' is The Walkmen's sixth album and second since signing to Bella Union. The album was produced by Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Band of Horses) whilst Robin Pecknold sings harmonies on two songs on the record.

    “We felt like it was time to make a bigger, more generous statement…" When describing The Walkmen's new album, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser portrays a band hitting maturity, comfortable in its mastery after a decade together.

    It's been ten years since the Walkmen made their debut album, 'Everybody Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone'. Ten years since critics attached them to a New York scene they never wanted to be part of. This spring the band played a series of 10th anniversary shows in the US that demonstrated how far they have outstripped their peers: two sets over two hours, no filler, rapturously received.

    The Walkmen are the great New York band of their generation, making the best music of their career and filling their largest venues yet. Their spot at the top of the bill at May’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, curated by The National, demonstrates the respect in which they are held by the current wave of bands making music in the city.

    When renowned producer Phil Ek approached the guys last year asking if they’d like to make a record with him, they travelled to the studio he uses in the woods outside Seattle for the most intense recording sessions they had ever experienced. “There can be something brittle about our sound,” Maroon says. “He made it just a little bit warmer, a little bit stronger. When I play it in my car, it sounds strong, which I love.”

    All five members of the band have kids now and if the impact of parenthood is hard to pin down in a single lyric, there is definitely a new openness and emotional honesty to the songs. Most importantly, the old gang mentality has deepened, becoming something worthwhile and lasting. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done. We’ve stayed friends and those friendships have grown,” says Bauer. “We have survival experience and real love that children generate in your life.”

    'Heaven' is a definitive statement of purpose and commitment, from a band at the peak of its powers that is finally winning the recognition it deserves.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Darryl says: 'Heaven', their sixth album, showcases a band completely at one with itself. Confident and striding elegantly at their own pace the songs offer us a warm and enveloping sound very much in keeping with band's new maturity.

    The Walkmen

    Lisbon

      'Don't get heavy, let's be light', Hamilton Leithauser sings on "Woe Is Me", and that seems to be the Walkmen's creed on "Lisbon". The Walkmen were more than heavy on their previous album, the gorgeously moody "You & Me", and it's hard not to read the more upbeat attitude they have here as a response. This time, they dance on their troubles instead of drowning their sorrows - although the organ on album opener "Juveniles" warms like the first sip of wine. But while the mood is lighter, things are never completely sunny in the Walkmen's world.

      "Victory" sounds like a winner's brash cheer, but bears the sting of being second place. "Woe Is Me" turns a pity party into an actual party, making reminiscences about a girl who was 'my not so long ago' into one of the band's most immediately appealing songs in some time, while "Angela Surf City" shoots the curl of a difficult relationship's tides, ebbing and cresting like "Bows + Arrows"' "The Rat". These songs anchor "Lisbon"'s hazier, sadder moments, of which there are plenty: the title track closes the album with a dreamy remembrance that echoes "You & Me"'s brooding travelogue, minus that album's desolation; "Blue as Your Blood" and "Stranded" provide "Lisbon"'s broken but ever-romantic heart, filled with transporting stories of black-eyed girls and waltzes among broken glass. Best of all is "While I Shovel the Snow", which once again proves what a rich muse winter is for the band. When Leithauser sighs 'There's no life like the slow life', it's another potent Walkmen motto: "Lisbon", like the rest of their music, is meant to be savoured, the fullness of its songs allowed to develop over many listens.

      "You & Me" finds the enigmatic quintet in predictably moody form with fourteen tracks of fearsome ingenuity featuring their trademark clanging guitar, their spooked keyboards and rolling drums. The music has a chaotic, drunken ebb and flow which hints at some spontaneous outpouring of musical grief but the reality is anything but; "You & Me" was painstakingly pieced together over two years in two cites - NYC and Philadelphia - and part of that meticulous construction was to make the album sound like a rock'n'roll record with depth and warmth and - uniquely for this notoriously challenging outfit - an uplifting mood to accompany the downtrodden chords.

      The Walkmen / Calla

      Split

        Split EP, featuring two tracks from each band, "Look Out The Window" and "Here Comes Another Day" from The Walkmen, and "Don't Hold Your Breath" and "Mother Sky" (By Can) from Calla.


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