Heartbreaker by The Walkmen (7.1) – There is a constantly evolving cast of bands/artists both old and reletively current lumped into the “bands I really need to check out some day” collective. The collective includes Blur, The Stone Roses, The Arctic Monkeys, Elbow (N.B. Maybe I have a prejudice against post-Who English bands), The Hold Steady, Grizzly Bear, and Wu-Tang Clan (I’ve listened to some, but I don’t think I’m getting it all). The collective once included Spoon (seriously missed out, now am a huge fan); LCD Soundsystem (not passing judgment yet, but there are some remarkable tracks), and The Walkmen.
Brief History: Formed in 2000, Brooklyn scene, but wanted to differentiate themselves from The Strokes/Manhattan scene. Their first album had the preternaturally fascinating title Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone. Their second album (2004) contained the track The Rat, which everyone (N.B. Including WD) found layered, and primal, and awesome. And then everyone (N.B. Including WD) forgot about them, until 2010 when their album Lisbon came out, and everyone (N.B. Including WD) acted like they’d been listening to them the entire time. Lisbon was a hit, meandering, poetic, and powerful. I even got a WD out of it, and committed myself to listening to the rest of their catalog. I’ve tried. I haven’t made it through all of it, but enough to really make me anticipate Heaven.
Many SMCs describe Heaven as The Walkmen “growing up” and a “dad rock” album in the least mundane and most sincere way that descriptor can be used. However both of these sounded really boring to me, and if I were you reading that, there is no way in hell I’d waste even the three minutes and sixteen seconds of the WD listening to even the very best “dad rock” ever created. You say “dad rock,” I hear The Doobie Brothers (N.B. Which, don’t get me wrong, are unreal in ways I never understood during the interminable car rides in which my dad would make us listen to them between two hour Merle Haggard sets). And as we all know, no loyal downloader, who craves the killer music recommended herein, is going to waste time listening to 2012’s version of Mike McDonald. Loyal downloaders believe that in no way is WD a boring dad who gets his rocks off reading a good (children’s) book, drinking 1.5 hop laden beers, cooking the perfect steak, and going to bed at 10:30, who would recommend such music.
OK, now that I’ve ensured you’re not going to listen to it, Heaven isn’t dad rock. Is it the Japandroids? (N.B. Slowly, but surely falling in love with these two ‘nucks. Watch this.) No. But it’s not the Doobies either. It has a great dreamy, but not sleepy, quality to it (N.B. and in no way is that dad rock). Almost surreal, as if they’re reporting on dreams, with florid words and grooves that make you want to be a part of them. The lead guitar and Hamilton Leithauser’s (N.B. Whose name sounds unfortunately dad-ish) vocals spill out, even in the up tempo songs in a way that doesn’t necessarily make them memorable, but more comforting, as if the natural conclusion of one song ending is the next song beginning regardless of the lyric content (N.B. I swear it isn’t dad rock).
This quality made picking a single track difficult. I went with Heartbreaker because it had the best groove out of the several on the album I’ve really enjoyed. (N.B. sounded the least dad rocky.) But I’m not sure it distinguishes itself over any of the other quality tracks on Heaven (N.B. Fuck it, it’s dad rock, OK?). Check out Southern Heart and Nightingales. (N.B. both of which sound great as you’re drifting off to sleep on a Saturday afternoon.) Overall it’s a good, not great, album. Not the best, but far from the worst I’ve listened to this year in the least mundane and most sincere way I can say that.