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Album Review

by The Walkmen

Fat Possum

Review Date
12th June 2012
Reviewed by
Max Walker

Heaven, the seventh studio album by New Yorkers’ The Walkmen, sees the band continue with their slightly dark, unabashedly melodramatic sound.

Throughout the bulk of their career, The Walkmen have always seemed like underachievers. Whilst fellow New Yorkers’ The Strokes and Interpol rose to mainstream prominence in the early Noughties (and in recent years’ The National), the band seemed to bubble under the surface. However in the last few years, particularly after the release of ‘Lisbon’, the group has seemed to slowly grow in stature. On record, they have also incorporated more folk leanings and this is very much evident on Heaven. The opener ‘We Can’t Be Beat’ starts as a delicate descending acoustic number built around the warm Jonathan Richman style croon of lead singer Hamilton Leithauser with the rest of the band gradually joining in at the very end.  The Walkmen’s secret weapon is, as always, drummer Matt Barrick, who jumps into the spotlight in ‘Love You Love’ with a thumping delivery. 

Heaven is by and large an extremely understated affair with huge amounts of space in each track, which can be frustrating at times. Certain tracks are crying out for more instrumentation, the languid ‘Line By Line’ only featuring a string section in the last 10 or 15 seconds and ‘Southern Heart’ is perhaps the quietest Walkmen song of all time, Leithauser alone with an acoustic. ‘Nightengales’ is a happy exception, with driving staccato guitar and throbbing bass giving the feeling of a band finally stretching their legs. ‘Jerry Jr.’s Tune’ however feels like a lost opportunity, a tender blues guitar lick accompanies warm humming vocals but before the first line is delivered the song ends. 

That New York sound fostered through the use of warm vintage guitar tones is still strongly evident, and welcome, throughout Heaven. However it does seem The Walkmen have been pursuing some sort of simplistic purity in their work that leaves some of their songs feeling a little empty and the strength of songwriting struggles to stand up to such stripped back production.


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