After over a decade as a group, The Walkmen release their seventh studio album, Heaven, which further departs from their initial adolescent garage rock and cements their place as distinguished artists still singing of heartaches and hangovers, but also of friendship and introspection, all with a matured sence humility and hindsight. Heaven still holds true to The Walkmen’s iconic sound – filled with shimmering vintage guitars, reverbed drums, and upright pianos – but what sets it apart is its continuation of the adult themes introduced by You & Me and furthered by Lisbon.

The Walkmen’s history began even before they were prep school boys who moved to be a part of the “New York scene”. Their friendship evolved into a brotherhood that has professionally lasted over 12 years, with no signs of halting. Once youngsters who owed a substantial amount of recognition to an episode of The O.C. – during the show’s downward spiral which featured some of the best music ever – they no longer seem overtly concerned with drinking to a stupor and drunk-dialing ex-girlfriends. Although they may still dabble in delinquencies, they are no longer boys.

Hamilton Leithauser and his band mates — multi-instrumentalist Pete Bauer, guitarist Paul Maroon, drummer Matt Barrick and bassist Walter Martin – no longer all live in New York. They still record and tour as one, but these days the band is split up between Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The Walkmen are men now, and they have new situations to deal with. There’s a substantial amount of inspiration that must come from weddings and births of children. On title track ‘Heaven’, vocalist Leithauser reflects on his band while he wishes his friends will never leave his side so that their “children will always hear, romantic tales of distant years”. Hard to believe that the boys who began their career with an album titled Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone would be so concerned about their children’s’ happiness, but I guess this is what happens when one grows up. I’ll have to take their word for it.

‘We Can’t Be Beat’ – a song separated into three distinct parts – is a perfect choice for an opener, contrasting with Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone’s opener ‘They’re Winning’. ‘Love Is Luck’ deals with coming to terms with the disappearance of mystery and intrigue that is associated with the initial stages of falling in love. Though those hoping for nostalgia will find pleasure in ‘The Love You Love’ as Leithauser – propelled by a steady barrage of drums and glimmerin guitars – laments about a certain woman not being in love with her beau, but rather being in love with the idea of being in love.

Heaven is arguably The Walkmen’s finest achievement to date. It has already been placed on multiple best of 2012 lists, and we’re only in June. With post-punk guitars layered over the echoes of toms and crash symbols, Leithauser’s distinctive crooning shines on this excellently mastered album. Heaven further solidifies The Walkmen’s body of work, and further propels the musicians – who once were boys – into men of at least some responsibility.


— , June 13, 2012    Comments Off on The Walkmen: Heaven