Review: The Walkmen Can't Be Beat

by Calvin Paradise | 5/30/12
8.3ARTIST INFO

In a book I once read to appear smart, This Is Your Brain on Music, the author put forth the "10,000 Hour Theory" that usually gets attributed to more famous books that have borrowed the idea. This theory essentially states that in order to become an expert at something, you need to have practiced doing it for 10,000 hours. If only all cognitive theories were this straightforward.

So what does any of this have to do with The Walkmen's new album, "Heaven"? Well, everything.

The New York-based quintet has been together now for over a decade and it's starting to show. It's all but a certainty that they've eclipsed the 10,000 hour milestone, and their expertise is starting to manifest itself in all areas of their music. The Walkmen are clearly comfortable with who they are. But they're not resting on their laurels, they're building on them.

Just listen to the album's opener, "We Can't Be Beat," in which Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold stops by to assist with some backing vocals. While Pecknold and Hamilton Leithauser's voices never quite mesh, the song is better for it. Especially since Leithauser delivers one of his best vocal tracks to date.

 

While this album is a decidedly more folky and low-key than most of The Walkmen's other work, the band shows that they can still do the whole jangle-guitar-pop thingy better than anyone else. Songs like "Heartbreaker," "The Love You Love," and the title track show this.

 

 

In the decade plus that they've been putting out music, it's clear The Walkmen are comfortable with who they are, but that's not going to stop them from trying to expand their sound. The band realizes they're never going to replicate 2004's classic Bows + Arrows, and they're not even bothering to try. They seem content to travel down new musical roads, incorporating what they've learned along the way as they try out new styles and genres. They may have put in their 10,000 hours, but they don't seem to show any signs of slowing down.

Heaven is out now via the good folks at Fat Possum. Pick it up wherever it is you cool kids are buying music these days.

This may or might not be the Best Music 2012, but it certainly should be in the discussion.

Have you listened to Heaven yet? Is this guy just a pathetic Walkmen fan-boy or is the album really as good as he says? Is Hamilton one of the most unfortunate first names in music, or is it "sophisticated"? Do you like The Walkmen's new alt-folk style, or do you wish they'd go back to writing kickass rock tracks like "The Rat"? Do you also go out alone if you go out at all? Oh and don't forget to…

 

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