Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Walkmen - You and Me

Release Date: August 19, 2008

★★★★★ Tracks:

Dónde está la playa

On the Water

In the New Year

Canadian Girl

The Walkmen have put out three incredible records and the fourth (proper full length) is no different. You & Me is their best yet, a beautifully realized masterpiece revolving around love, loss and travel. The instrumentation builds upon the ideas they set in place with Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, but the scale is much grander. Violas, horns, and organs are all used to compliment that eerie Walkmen blend of classic rock’n’roll and current indie rock.

The sound on its own can conjure vivid images and location, while Hamilton’s raspy voice narrates us though his personal contemplations while in those places. On "Donde Esta La Playa," the drums and guitar combine to transport us to a moonlit beach, where we’re told a story of bitter lost love. “Canadian Girl” invokes 1950’s and ‘60’s do-wop without the actual ‘do-wop’ backing vocals, but when Leithauser croons, “and only I still call you mine,” you can hear the throw-back to old soul in his voice.

Although not old himself by any stretch, Hamilton was approaching that 30 year milestone during the production of You & Me, and he seems more distraught than ever over the direction of his life. Even the more optimistic tracks contain melancholy undertones: in “Red Moon” Hamilton longs for his lover while on the road, but “In the New Year” he is uncertain there is a future for them at all. The latter has a cynical tone to it, with a lovely waltz time, triumphant guitars and vocals, and lyrics of enthusiasm for the new year, but when combined with the organ and Hamilton’s last few lines it hints at impending doom:

"So it’s all over
It’s all over, anyhow
You took our sweet time
And finally I opened my eyes
My friends and my family
They are asking of me
How long will you ramble
How long will you still repeat
The snow is still falling
And I’m almost home
I’ll see you…"

“On the Water” is the strongest track here. The instrumentation sounds like the driving force to a gritty crime-noir, setting us up for lyrics focusing on a poor soul who has lost someone very close to him/her, perhaps in some tragic accident. The video’s premise only enforces the image.

You & Me is an album that lives in those fleeting moments right before the sun comes up, when one goes through those late-night ( and often drunken) reflections on life; intimate moments that feel powerful but difficult to put in to words. Well, difficult unless you are Hamilton Leithauser. Life can get more confusing as age and mounting responsibilities add up, but the experiences can become more exciting and rewarding. The Walkmen perfectly capture those feelings on You & Me, and in doing so they created the best record released in 2008.

Here’s a short clip of "Canadian Girl" from a show the Walkmen played at the Bell House in Brooklyn, courtesy of a friend I was with that night. Check out her awesome bathroom blog, Courtesy Flush, where there's a post from the Bell House up now.

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