The Walkmen – Heaven

Rating: ★★★★ ·

For a whole decade now, The Walkmen have been gracing your ears with their jangly rock music. Now, when I say that, I truly mean it; this band makes albums that linger in your music collection for long periods of time, seemingly timeless in their nature. Earlier albums proved rugged and loose, running wild with youthfulness and spunk, but as I said before, it’s been ten years, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser and company have grown up, and so has their music. Heaven is a testament to this, as the band brings you a different kind of rock album.

Right out of the gate, it’s clear to see the direction in which The Walkmen have decided to go with this seventh studio full-length release. “We Can’t Be Beat,” meanders its way to start, with Leithauser crooning along to some gentle guitar plucking, with sporadic “oohs” floating through the background. Even as the song picks up a bit at the end, the lushness is ever apparent through the use of layered vocals and delicate percussive elements. This lush sound is a general theme of the album, carrying through most of the songs in some shape or form. It’s extra present on some of the later tracks like “No One Ever Sleeps,” that focus on the vocals. A number on the slower side, it comes across as a bit of a lullaby with more billowy and wispy “oohs” that work their way through the lead. The song is gentle and sweet, juxtaposing Leithauser’s sharp voice with the softness of the backing instrumentation.

This group doesn’t have the same reckless abandon that they did when they first started out, but would you really want them to after ten years? A bunch of thirty-something year old guys who all have kids trying to act like kids? No, that would be silly and out of place. Instead, this band has a healthy alternative that still packs a punch for old fans. Songs like title track “Heaven” and “Heartbreaker,” incorporate old with new and are straight up catchy tunes. “Heartbreaker” is a song found early on the record that gets things moving with those rolling drums and hooky guitars, while “Heaven” is a summery sounding number that will have you tapping your toes. There will always be those who reminisce of the old days of this band when they put out jams like “Rat,” but there are acceptable rock songs on this effort as well.

Yes, it’s a grown up record, but by no means is it a snoozer. The Walkmen have made growing up something cool and envied, riding upon the waves of their musical and personal successes. They relish in their coming of age with grace, inviting you to come along for the ride. So join in with them and enjoy the beauty in Heaven.

 

New Music from Sharon Van Etten

I know Turkey Day is drawing near, but there’s still some great music leaking out today, so I’m going to try and stay on top of it.  This new track from Sharon Van Etten has me really excited, and not just because it features members of The National, Walkmen and Wye Oak; it’s because I’ve got a bit of a crush on Sharon…and her music too! The songstress has a new album coming out titled Tramp, which will be released on Jagjaguwar on February 7th.  This song’s got a nice little cascading guitar line cutting through the rhythm guitar, and Van Etten’s voice sounds every bit as beautiful as I remember it in the live setting.  This is shaping up to be a good 2012 already.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Sharon_Van_Etten_-_Serpents.mp3]

Download: Sharon Van Etten – Serpents [MP3]

Top Ten ACL Bands

Well, it’s taken us a few days to get over our various illnesses, hangovers, bruised ribs, and what have you, but we’ve compiled our list of who we thought did the best job at ACL this year.  For me, I feel sort of underwhelmed by the whole event, but I know I caught some good stuff. Read on for our list.

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ATH @ ACL 2011 – Sunday

The news of the Longhorns’ victory lifted spirits, Cut Copy killed it – Saturday was a good day. I was tired, yet nervous and excited. The rain, though nearby and luckliy watering our lawns, never really pounded the grounds. Sunday was a day with a few bands I knew I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Head on past the break for the final batch of images from Sunday.

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Friday Top 5: Mix Tape Closers

That’s right, I said mix TAPE. The days of sitting in front of a boombox waiting for a song to come on the radio may be over, but I refuse to say “Mix CD” or to refer to a “digital playlist.” Too many syllables. Just doesn’t roll off the tongue like “mix tape.” Yeah, I know a while back ATH ran a “Top 5 Album Closers” list, but this is different. Because I added the whole “mix tape” angle. So it’s totally not the same thing. You’re buying this right? What’s that? You don’t give a flying squirrel’s ass anyway? Oh thank God. Because I forgot I was supposed to write something this week, so I just threw some garbage together at the last minute. These songs really are good mix tape closers though, I swear.

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Show Preview: The Walkmen @ Stubbs (3/4)

Date 3/4/11
Location Stubbs
Doors 7pm
Tickets $18 @ Frontgate

A night that many of us have been looking forward to for quite some time has finally come with the Walkmen show at Stubbs on Friday night.  Opening support for the night will be provided by The Head and The Heart and Austin’s very own up and comers TV Torso.  Making the night even more enticing is a set by friends of ATH Whitman on the inside stage immediately after the Walkmen finish up outside.  More good news is that you’ll get in free to the Whitman show with a wristband from the outside show.  Make a night of it people.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/The-Walkmen-Stranded.mp3]

Download: The Walkmen – Stranded [MP3]

The Walkmen – Lisbon

Rating: ★★★★½

Honestly, one of the best known songs from The Walkmen is “The Rat,” and it seems that many of us have waited for the band to replicate such powerful tracks for the duration of several albums. But, while we’ve had our issues, Hamilton and his posse have slowly began to focus on recreating nothing, simply pushing ahead whilst writing some of the moving records; Lisbon is just another killer notch in the proverbial belt.

A rolling drum beat lightly kicks off “Juveniles,” giving the listener a bit of a slow-sway before the twangy guitars unite with Hamilton’s vocal appearance.  It’s amazing how great his voice sounds nowadays, when it used to be the one disposable aspect in the group’s repertoire. His control as he changes pitches and tones from note to note let’s us all know that he’s in control; so be it good sir.  You’ll find a similar drum roll entrance on “Angela Surf City,” but the band spends the first minute building tension, just before exploding upon us.  The drums sounds like well-crafted gunfire, and the guitars chug along in unison.  Still, there’s a light touch in the moments where the track rests, due mostly to Hamilton’s now credible vocal display.  If you’re not in love with Lisbon already, you’re already behind, so start over.

There’s a darkness bred by the guitar lines at the opening seconds of “Blue as Your Blood.”  You get the sense that your traveling down a dark highway through some desert valley, and the wind blowing in your hair is Leithauser’s voice.  String arrangements arise in the background, giving an extra depth to your night drive.  While it’s musical tone is a touch haunting, there’s a warmth to everything within this number. You’ve driven all the way to “Stranded,” which has an echo of a sad funeral march, implied by the horns. Yet, as Hamilton exclaims that “I’m the bigger man here,” you get the feeling that despite trials and tribulations, he’s not sitting around reflecting on it all; he’s ready to go forth.  After such emotion, The Walkmen take it upon themselves to brighten the mood with “Victory.”  The guitars alone are some of the brightest you’ll find on the record, crisp and clear, giving us all hope.  This is our victory too, so enjoy the rise and fall, especially the rise; those guitars and crashing cymbals just clear everything out of the way.

In the past, we might have searched for the powerful moments to erupt for the group, but they’ve spent so much time crafting their sound over the years, that when they slow it down, you put your ear to the speaker, hoping to grasp every last sonic stroke. “Torch Song” and “Lisbon” have a bit of studio tinkering in their background, but the emotive quality in Leithauser’s voice on each song provides us with a final moment to contemplate every word, every change in pace, every single track.  You’ll arrive at the end, a bit slower than how you got here, but dammit if you won’t have enjoyed everything about the latest travels with The Walkmen.  Honestly, most people should struggle to find anything wrong with this record, making Lisbon one of the most complete, and gorgeous, records of 2010.  Press play, and listen again and again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/The-Walkmen-Stranded.mp3]

Download: The Walkmen – Stranded [MP3]

The Love Language – Libraries

Rating: ★★★★ ·

It sounds like things in North Carolina couldn’t be any better. The Love Language recently signed to Merge Records, and then they followed that up with the release of Libraries.  At first listen, you might find sonic touches of other bands, you might even think you recognize vocal qualities of singer Stuart McLamb.  In the end, you’ll find that this record is full of well executed songs, all of which provide repeated listening pleasures for every individual who puts down the cash to get this well crafted pop opus.

“Pedals” starts off slowly, before guitars begin to ring in backed by light keyboard strokes.  Enter Stuart, carrying his melody high above the rest of the band’s swirling sonic display.  There’s an edginess to all this beauty, and every movement within the song feels sharp, yet incredibly uplifting, especially when the strings arrangements enter during the latter part of the song.  You can’t start off much better than this.

During “Brittany’s Back” you start to get a hint that McLamb has a bit of Hamilton from The Walkmen in his voice, but during this song, his voice seems much more controlled than his vocal contemporary.  But, on “This Blood is Our Own” you really see a similarity, as Stuart reaches for that high spectrum of his own pitch, wavering just a bit at the top.  Still, this song, aside from the piano, doesn’t really sound all that much like the aforementioned band; it has a much more cinematic quality, one that would fit nicely in the wooded regions of the Carolinas.

“Summer Dell” starts off a slew of songs that don’t sound as crowded, musically, and they really take Libraries to the the top tier of indie rock.  Steady guitar strumming, and really sharp drum hits, give it a strong emotive quality, yearning for you to get lost amidst the finer details of the song.  “Heart to Tell” takes a like-minded approach, as its similarly stripped down, though you’ll find a more upbeat group, giving you a little bit of swing as you listen.  McLamb’s vocal performance here is one of the strongest of the whole collection, and creative production from the percussive section adds an extra level of enjoyment.

Something about the approach to the writing in “Wilmont” will forever stick with you.  After an album that seems filled, cleverly, with every inch of space, you have a slow number that is carried by light strumming and McLamb, that is to begin the song.  Once the drums kick in, and the guitar seems to be chasing the stars, you try to follow, yet you’re distracted by the vocals, almost haunted.  It is hard to pull yourself away from this song; you simply can’t do it.

That’s precisely the way you’ll feel listening to Libraries, especially after the third and fourth listen.  Details will begin to emerge, melodies will seep inside you, and you’ll discover that crooning sounds coated in wooded effects can be successful.  In fact, it’s so much so, you will keep coming back to The Love Language just to take a different look around the indie world. You’ll be better off for it.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/ll-heart.mp3]

Download: The Love Language – Heart to Tell [MP3]

New Music From The Walkmen

The big news of the interwebs today has been the sounds of a new Walkmen song called “Stranded”.  As far as we can see, the tune is only streaming on most sites, but we’ve got a nice little download for you below.  The very Walkmen-esque slow burner will appear on the group’s latest LP Lisbon which is set for release on Sep. 14th via Fat Possum.  We’re sorry we every doubted you guys.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/The-Walkmen-Stranded.mp3]

Download: The Walkmen – Stranded [MP3]

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