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The Walkmen : Heaven

When they first emerged from the ashes of cult indie-rockers Jonathan Fire*Eater just over a decade ago, few would have put money on The Walkmen coming through the Noughties in better shape than the rest of New York’s Class Of 2001. Scrolling through the tracklist of Yes New York, a Walkmen-featuring cash-in compilation from the time celebrating the global interest in the city’s then-resurgent and much celebrated underground rock scene, half the bands featured are gone or forgotten (Longwave, the Witnesses, LCD Soundsystem) whilst many of the others (the Strokes, the Rapture, Interpol) have, at one point or another, found themselves stuck in a rut at the business end of a critical backlash, but since relocating to the Big Apple these ex-D.C. and Philly kids haven’t put a foot wrong. With a distinct, trademark sound – overdriven guitars and organs piled on top of pounding drums to create an epic, windswept U2/ Cure hybrid – established early on, the five-piece have gradually and subtly reinvented themselves over the course of six original albums, the latest of which, Heaven (out June 4) is currently available to preview over at NPR. It’s a glorious record, one that retains some traces of ragged early efforts like “Little House Of Savages” (“Witch”, “Love You Love”) and polishes the classic rock swagger they’ve been perfecting since 2006’s A Hundred Miles Off to a sparkling finish with the title track and “Heartbreaker” (below) but it’s the folky warmth and gentle country swing of tracks like “We Can’t Be Beat” (featuring beautiful harmonies from Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold) and the glowing, sugar-sweet “Song For Leigh” that really set the tone. Nothing here rages like “The Rat” – the frantic Bows & Arrows highlight that remains the group’s best-known track – but the mellower vibe is one that fits them as well as the Mad Men suits they sport in the press photos; now in their 30s, husbands and fathers, their priorities have rightfully shifted and whilst there are plenty of reminders of the boozy lounge band that once covered Harry Nilsson’s Pussycats album song-for-song, Heaven‘s overriding themes (family, contentment) suggest that with this more mature direction the Walkmen are entering yet another – even more rewarding – stage of their so-far spectacular career.

Heaven is out June 4 through Fat Possum in the US and Bella Union in Europe

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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