|For a band to stay together ten years is quite an accomplishment. To have the same group of players record to record, gig to gig is a testimony to friendship and unity. To make solid album statements and grow without hitting a brick wall is a rare feat. NYC's The Walkmen have done all these things and more and they're back with their seventh album, Heaven (via Fat Possum).
Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser talks about his band's goal with Heaven as, "We felt like it was time to make a bigger, more generous statement." They chose to do this by working in subtleties instead of grand musical declarations. Some bands would have tried to outdo U2 with sweeping anthems, The Walkmen choose to look at their immediate surroundings and craft a mature collection of songs that don't reach for the arena's back rows, but ten people in the front row of a tiny theater.
Heaven is good. The songs make sense as a whole and stand out one from the other. Beginning with "We Can't Be Beat" the group sound focused and committed to the task of making a solid album. The guitars jangle crisply behind empathetic vocals delivered by Leithauser. Another song, "Heartbreaker," is an immediate favorite featuring the fantastically snide lyric, "I'm not your heartbreaker / some tender ballad player." And the guitars! I have to go back to them because they really make the album. Producer Phil Ek pushed the sound and found the sweet spot between clang and fragile with Paul Maroon's guitar tone.
The Walkmen are a band that explore slower tempos and hunt from drama, but aren't averse to taking left turns. The album's overall soft emotional palette is offset with a handful of uptempo rockers like, "The Love You Love" and the title track. At times this is a set of songs that recall late 80s R.E.M., but more romantic and less willfully obscure. Heaven is a quick 47 minutes. It satisfies all cravings longtime fans have regarding this group and also hits home for younger people roughly the same age as the band themselves. Entering adulthood, parenting, and maturing has a great new soundtrack with Heaven by The Walkmen.