To use an REM comparison, The Walkmen’s latest album Heaven is their Lifes Rich Pageant moment. Just like that fourth album by REM, Heaven is an album by a band on top of their game in life and career and enjoying every moment.
Some fine work behind the production desk by Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse and Built To Spill producer Phil Ek has helped create this joyous sound. He’s not only added some pastoral Fleet Foxes moments, but has also roped in the Foxes’ Robin Pecknold for backing vocal duties. Think Fleet Foxes with balls and you are somewhere near this new Walkmen sound.
Opener We Can’t Be Beat is perhaps the most Foxey of the lot, acoustic guitar, harmonies and above all Walkmen lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s stunning vocals rising above it all.
Thankfully the band’s trademark focus on vintage guitars, keyboards are strewn across this album as the uplifting Love is Luck, Heart breaker and The Witch come next followed by the album’s centerpiece track Line by Line. With the cleanest and crispest of electric guitar parts and vocals for most of it this track is a masterclass in the phrase ‘less is more’.
While sparser than last year’s Mariachi influenced Lisbon, Heaven manages to create a bigger sound from such a simple and traditional arrangement of guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals. Even the tracks of just vocals and guitar sound big, such is the joy that pours out of every groove, piece of data or rainbow CD glint, depending on your format.
Heaven also manages to recreate the sense of emotion and drama of their breakthrough 2008 album You and Me as well as provide a great single in the title track.
In many ways Heaven is the most complete Walkmen album yet, bringing together the best of their previous work and adding a new pastoral production that brings out the band’s most recognizable and sellable quality – the passionate rock vocals of Leithauser.
by Joe Lepper