Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Walkmen Getting it (Really) Together

For the last several weeks, while this blog has been silent on the matter of music, several discs have been receiving significant listening time here in cpsland, but none has been listened to as much as the latest effort by The Walkmen. Lisbon, which actually came out earlier this fall, is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the best album this band has released to date.

Now some will disagree on the grounds that this album has continued down a path the band has been taking toward slower, sparser, and quieter tunes. True, this album is no Bows and Arrows in terms of rock intensity, but many of the same qualities are still present, just toned down and more nuanced. The songs have more variation and textures, more space and ultimately are more lyrical.

When I first wrote about The Walkmen, I explained that I simply did not get them at first, in part because lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s approach seemed to always be slightly off—off tune, off tempo—unconnected with the driving music underneath. It was accepting that tension between vocals and music that was key to coming to appreciate what the band was doing.

That tension is still there to a certain extent on Lisbon, but it only in your face here and there on rockers like the opening song “Angela Surf City”—which Pitchfork reviewer Tom Breihan puts on the top of the heap of Walkmen songs with “The Rat” and “In the New Year”. More often, that tension is resolving as many of the songs on Lisbon are crafted with the vocals wholly integrated into the song and Leithauser’s singing is simply beautiful (all the while maintaining his edgy, flat. slacker sound).

That is most clear on the back end of the album which slows down with each song. Who would have ever thought these guys would have a song called “Torch Song” (which is actually sung at the pace of a torch song)? They do—and, in fact, they seem to be getting comfortable in this new skin. As Leithauser’s sings in “While I Shovel the Snow,”

For now I’ll take my time
For now, I can’t be bothered . . .
There is no life like the snow life

That can only mean one thing. There next album is going to be a blazin’ rocker.

Until then, I highly recommend this album with it mix of mid-tempo rockers and slow burners—I predict it will be one that you come back to repeatedly. For samples, I was tempted to give you the closing title track which is a great reflection on the everyday and then that wonderful opening rocker (allowing you to enjoy that wonderful disc-replay- rollover), but decided on two others.

First up is a “Blue as Your Blood” which perhaps reflects best all the band’s talk about the album being influenced by early Sun Record recordings, but more importantly is a great example of the sparseness of many of these songs which also maintain their unique mix of guitar, drums and vocals. And then, I couldn’t help but share that “Torch Song” in which the band seeks a song to slow down all the madness. Leithauser moans that he doesn’t know that song, but, of course we are listening to it.

Blues As Your Blood
Torch Song

Go buy the album.

No comments:

Post a Comment