Singing themselves sick

The Walkmen’s new album reaffirms their new confidence

The Walkmen’s latest album Heaven is reportedly their most talented work to date.
The Walkmen’s latest album Heaven is reportedly their most talented work to date.
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Sometimes, it’s okay to judge an album by its cover. The Walkmen’s newest album Heaven is one of those cases.

The Walkmen hail from both New York City and Philadelphia and originally formed in 2000 with Paul Maroon, Walter Martin and Matt Barrick of the band Jonathan Fire*Eater. The two others, Peter Bauer and Hamilton Leithauser, were both originally from the group The Recoys.

Although the album was released on May 29, 2012, its contents remain relevant as Stereogum rated it the second-best album of that year.

This may sound a bit pretentious, but an album won’t succeed in charming its way into my heart if the goods on the inside aren’t matched on the outside.

I’m certainly the sort of person who appreciates album artwork almost as much as what’s beyond it.

Opening a new album is an experience in itself. It either sets the stage for what’s to come, or is entirely misleading. It’s the packaging, the material, the artwork and colour scheme that first catch my eye.

For this particular album, the artwork manufactured a foundation for the tone of the musical collection.

Full of old, muted, nearly black and white photos that mimic a family album, I was immediately intrigued.

After 10 dedicated years this band has been together, and according to their most recent biography, it seems like The Walkmen have come into their own with their coming-of-age confidence in album-form.

From my perspective, a true musician is also a storyteller, and The Walkmen do nothing less but accomplish this with Heaven.

After once questioning the bands existence through their fourth album’s single track “In The New Year”, this album seems to trump all previous hesitancies.

The first song, “We Can’t Be Beat”, on their 13-track masterpiece is also arguably their strongest lyrically and musically.

“The world is ours,” front man Hamilton Leithauser croons, while the band doo-wops behind him. And it certainly is.

The band plays songs of love and friendship, both lost and nonexistent, but in a way that is far from patronizing.

In their fifth track, and my personal favourite, “Southern Heart”, Leithauser questions, “Tell me again how you love all the men you were after,” a very relevant question in an age where the concept of love is dying.

Then moving on to “Dreamboat”, he declares, “I left you a million times, the irony ain’t lost on me.” The irony of indecisive love isn’t lost on us, either.

With their seventh track “Song for Leigh”, it is clear they really are singing “themselves sick” and don’t plan on bowing out anytime soon.

The band is currently touring around Europe, with stops at the Polish musical festival OFF, Electric Picnic in Ireland and End of the Road Festival in England before returning to the United States in early September.

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