Artist: The Walkmen
Record Label: Bella Union/Fat Possum
Calling an album Heaven can be risky business as to some the audio may appear divine, but to others the music may sound like the work of the devil and be nothing but torture for your ears. The Walkmen have bestowed this holy moniker upon their seventh studio record that neither has celestial beauty or any demonic qualities. The American quintet instead have managed to create a record that sounds somewhere in-between the cloudy place in the sky and the fiery place under our feet. Like any other day on Earth, this LP has its good points and its run of the mill moments.
Sounding very much like the quintessential American indie-rock band, The Walkmen can be filed nicely next to Arcade Fire and The National as they manage to make music that is grandiose yet understated, where the biggest statement can be made from the most minimal arrangements. Album opener ‘We Can’t Be Beat’ is a harmonised document of subtle intent as is the sparse ‘Line By Line’ which is buoyed by Hamilton Leithauser’s earthly tones that are in turn supported by trembling acoustic guitars. The track in particular captures The Walkmen in an introspective mood as the lyric “Line by line, we all scrape by” is easily translatable to almost every human on this planet.
Equally the five piece aren’t shy when it comes to ramping up the racket either. ‘Nightingale’ has an expansive sound that Arcade Fire have been touting for years now, even down to the “oooooo’s!”
Aside from the tracks previously mentioned, Heaven has the tendency to have only two dimensions, these being introspective poignancy or the next level down from arena-bothering expansiveness. Both proportions are played out well by the five piece, however the record seems to blur into one after a number of listens. The problem being the tender moments and widescreen encounters don’t have enough space between them to differentiate where one begins and the other ends.
Not quite Heaven and nothing like hell, the new album by The Walkmen feels more like a last minute holiday that has the occasional drizzly day to dampen the spirit but never your soul.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams