Black Hours

Review of Hamilton Leithauser's Black Hours, out on June 3 on Ribbon Music and Domino records. The latest single from Black Hours is 11 O'clock Friday Night

Artist: Hamilton Leithauser
Album: Black Hours
Label: Ribbon/Domino Records
Rating: 8.5

Hamilton Leithauser, perhaps better known for being the frontman of the indie-rock band the Walkmen, will be embarking on his solo project with the release of his debut album. Black Hours, set to be released on June 3rd via Ribbon/Domino Records, marks Leithauser’s time apart from the band that he has been performing with for nearly two decades in an attempt to introduce and establish his musical direction as a solo artist.

Written by Leithauser over the span of a few years, the album features a plethora of different musical styles all wrapped together perfectly with the help of Leithauser’s musical ability and the work of the collaborators on the project. From the upbeat tune of the single “Alexandra” to the slow lament of “5 AM,” the album has songs to signify a variety of different moods. During the production of Black Hours, Leithauser worked with musicians from bands like Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes and the Shins and their influence on the sound of the record is evident. For instance, the musical composition of “Alexandra,” with it’s rhythmic percussions backed by keyboard and harmonica is similar to the sound of Vampire Weekend. From the upbeat draw of “Alexandra” to the minimalist yet moving song “St. Mary’s County,” the album highlights Leithauser’s ability to make a variety of arrangements work in a perfect fashion. “St. Mary’s County Song,” for the most part, features just the upright piano and Leithauser’s melancholic voice as he poses the question of trust when he sings, “I know the way home but I’ll ask you all the same.” “I Retired” is a proclamation of the acceptance of defeat, having lost the meaning of the struggle somewhere along the way. The musical arrangement of the song possesses elements of the country and blues genres, which helps the song to stand out as the listener can’t help but tap their feet while Leithauser exclaims, “No one knows what i’m fighting for and I don’t even know myself anymore.” “I Don’t Need Anyone,” which is perhaps Leithauser’s attempt to convince himself that he is content being alone, is a surprisingly empowering and uplifting song. Leithauser draws a curtain on the album with the U2-esque track, “The Smallest Splinter,” where he pleads with an estranged love to “show [him] the man who won your whole heart.”

Black Hours displays the development of not only Leithauser’s musical journey but also of his personal struggle, as the album is clearly self-reflective. By working with a number of different people on the album, Leithauser was able to produce a brilliant album that not only introduces him as a solo artist but also does so in a highly commendable fashion.

Mariam Aamir


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