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The Walkmen
FILTER Grade: 87%

By Dom Sinacola on May 29, 2012


The Walkmen

Like a warm glass of milk or a Bruce Springsteen song soundtracking a fireworks display, every new Walkmen album is dependable, soothing and somehow makes one proud of the American way of life. Heaven, the band’s seventh full-length, is no different—because it’s, after all, a Walkmen record. With the prominent exception of its production credits falling to engineer-to-the-indie-stars Phil Ek, whereas past LPs were mostly left to the band’s shaky hand, Heaven makes good on the workmanlike promise of a decade’s worth of that dependability: herein find solid, thoughtful, shaggy rock songs tiramisu’d with Hamilton Leithauser’s transcendent death throes. Find at least one of their best (“The Love You Love”), one of their most forgettable (“Southern Heart,” because it pretty much goes nowhere) and one more bout of about 40 minutes to convince the universe to continue loving this band.

Yet, Heaven is a post–You & Me record, a document informed irretrievably by a moment in the not-too-distant past when everything changed forever. You & Me—which should, by all accounts, due to the logic of good taste, be considered their best—was in 2008, after four albums that functionally defined the band’s blown-out garage sound as saliently as possible, the means by which The Walkmen discovered subtlety and reinvigorated their music by stripping back the maudlin wash and rooting around at their tender core. On Heaven, Ek translates that subtlety as an aesthetic of extremes: “We Can’t Be Beat” creaks with triumph; “Dreamboat” aches, every Walkmen song before it seemingly so much less sad; and everything in between is blissful and heartbreaking in equal, clearly portioned measure. It’s nothing new, but then it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply one of the best rock records of our so-far shallow year. It’s, after all, a Walkmen record. 

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