The Walkmen
Heaven


4.5
superb

Review

by Ali CONTRIBUTOR (130 Reviews)
May 25th, 2012 | 42 replies | 4,855 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: At last, The Walkmen hit gold.

´╗┐When we speak of bands operating within a comfort zone, we usually do so whilst implying negative connotations. The Walkmen, however, have on the whole been exempt from such rulings, and it must be said with good reason. The New Yorkers settled into a sweet spot pretty swiftly following their formation in 2000, and have since made only subtle amendments to a formula that's become both familiar and distinctive. Sticking to what they know has hardly been a hindrance though, and has earned them a reputation among the most consistently excellent bands that indie-rock has to offer. Indeed the only real criticism which could be levelled at them is that they've never managed to deliver a truly great record; the type that moves a band up a level and immortalises them at the expense of countless contemporaries. Commendable though their catalog is, The Walkmen have long seemed destined to be American indie's nearly men - always a pleasure, but never quite capable of pulling alongside The Nationals and Arcade Fires of this world.

Given that this pattern has transpired for each of its six predecessors, the assumption was that Heaven would diligently follow suite and bring about more of the same. Right from its opening bars however, it's clear that this isn't your average Walkmen record, with the subsequent 47 minutes emphatically confirming that they've broken the mould. As expected, it doesn't present any radical shifts in terms of the band's sound, but what it does do is take virtually everything they've achieved thus far and fine tune it to optimum level. You'd refrain from calling it a coming of age, as their music has always carried a distinct air of maturity. Instead, it's a record more akin to R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People in that it represents everything finally falling into place, and remarkably isn't too far removed from that landmark in terms of quality.

While they've had their moments of musical muscularity, one of The Walkmen's main strengths has always been their masterful command of subtlety, and that's something that Heaven exercises to perfection. There are no immediately recognisable standouts here, merely a sublime and meticulously assembled collection of slow-burners capable of stirring the types of emotions reserved for only the most wondrous of writers. They convey a type of magnificent underlying beauty reminiscent of The Velvet Underground's self-titled, with that sense being upheld even during the more uptempo moments. The instrumental caste channels that sentiment with a fantastically disciplined showing, but perhaps inevitably it's Hamilton Leithauser who steals the limelight. It's not just the fact that his voice is placed higher in the mix - he also appears to have adapted his style to incorporate a wider range of vocal approaches. This has done nothing to diminish its affinity to the grandiose, but does result in a more varied performance which does nothing but compliment his gravelly drawl. Lyrically too this record marks his greatest achievement yet, sticking to the usual emotionally affecting themes but doing so with more potency than ever, again helped no end by the stellar mixing job.

We could run through individual tracks, but that would no doubt lead to an excitable dissection of just how amazing each and every one one of them is, and no one wants that. Anyway, you should have the gist by now - that being that The Walkmen have finally hit the jackpot, and hit it hard at that. After a decade of really-good-but-not-quite-classic albums, it seemed that they would never fully embrace their potential, and were destined to harbour a legacy as indie also-rans. For those who held such beliefs, Heaven will come as both a surprise and a joy, and should mark the point at which they draw level with the frontrunners and icons of the alternative landscape.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 24th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Also posted at http://www.muzikdizcovery.com/

Album steam http://www.npr.org/2012/05/20/152853333/first-listen-the-walkmen-heaven

My album of the year so far by a distance. Hope the review's ok.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 24th 2012



15332 Comments


about to listen to this, thanks for bringing the stream to my attention

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

jimmykidd
May 24th 2012



528 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

been putting off listening to this. seems i might have to. nice review.

jackalope11
May 25th 2012



330 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Soooo stoked for this. Literally have been waiting for months. Awesome review!

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 25th 2012



30873 Comments


Yeah I'm loving this

Digging: FaltyDL - In The Wild

jimmykidd
May 25th 2012



528 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wow, this is actually really good. so many great songs.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 25th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks a lot guys, good to see I'm not alone in my enthusiasm.

defjaw83
May 25th 2012



1765 Comments


Love Lisbon so I'm really excited to listen to this, especially if it's a step up. Wicked review too man, have a pos!

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 25th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks. I liked Lisbon a lot, but or me this tramples all over it.

Wildorwhat
May 26th 2012



86 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

A few of the tracks I love, a few of the tracks irritate the hell out of me. The first track's second half just makes me want to listen to something else from the get go.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Each to his own I guess, I love everything here. What is it that you don't like about the first track? The vocals?

fuckthatnoise
May 27th 2012



1479 Comments


would this be a good place to start w/ this band?

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think that this is probably as good a place to start as any. All of their stuff is fairly slow-burning but I loved this as soon as I heard it.

Kiran
Emeritus
May 27th 2012



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this band is so consistently solid

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I would agree, but this is far more than solid.

Wildorwhat
May 29th 2012



86 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's the yelps with the very crisp production which makes him sound somewhat insulated. I wish it sounded more natural I guess.

Steoandnoodles
May 29th 2012



2832 Comments


Robin Pecknold sings on a track. Must be Godly.

Haha, seriously though, I'm excited to listen to this. I've heard good things about it.

Was Phil Ek behind the mixing on this?

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 29th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah Phil Ek was the producer

Steoandnoodles
May 29th 2012



2832 Comments


Sweet, production is going to be tight then. =)
Looking forward to listening to it more now.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 29th 2012



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah he does a steller job, particularly with Leithauser's vocals, though Wildorwhat would clearly disagree with me on that point.



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