The Walkmen | Heaven | Rating: 7.9/11 | Reviewed by: Joshua Hammond |
The act of making an album is honestly as much of a tightrope walk as a simple process of creation. The balance of sticking to your signature sound while managing to be true to the growth that has occurred since your previous release often borders on miracle status if completed. Regardless of the careful manner of every step taken, someone is always going to be unhappy. Come release date, there are a handful of things that could go right while over a hundred could go wrong. Every album is a hail mary pass and a prayer from overtime. It represents where you are as a band and determines the manner in which an audience responds to you. It could expand your spotlight or help you implode. At its most simple, it is anything but 12 random songs. With all honesty, I have never envied a band leading up to their album’s release.
Take for example The Walkmen. When I received their latest albumHeaven, I fully expected a hundred things to go wrong. It will have nothing to do with the quality of the album. The mixes are fine. The lyrics, though repetitive, are to the point and paint a quality story. There is nothing lacking in the instrumentation. Heaven as a whole is a quality album. I personally see nothing here worth apologizing for. However, having been lucky enough to follow this band since 2002 when Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone dropped, I would be lying if I didn’t confess a shift in sound. In fact, placed under a magnifying glass, Heaven doesn’t really sound like The Walkmen at all.
Gone is the frantic and edgy wall of sound approach previously taken in their songwriting. Heaven lacks anything resembling “The Rat.” It is void of middle fingers and disjointed chords. In their place, The Walkmen offer a collection of polished, breezy and approachable creations, lingering closer in resemblance to U2 than Pavement. From this, I fully expect a backlash from loyalists. Throwing opinions like rocks in riots, masses will cast shadows over the album, coining ridiculous phrases like “selling out” and “going soft.”
It is important to remember though that these masses know nothing about music.
Regardless of the new direction, Heaven shines when listened to through headphones. Throughout the album, a new maturity seems to peak through. Frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s signature bellows are no longer cries for help as much as confessions and realizations. Any ounce of his modest honesty that manages to bleed onto the tracks should without question replace the angst left on the sideline of this album. Historically speaking, it is the courage to stand up and be vulnerable that helps turns average artists into timeless legends; Heaven is a step in that direction. If you don’t stick around to watch where it ends up, you’re just being stubborn and close minded.