Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2010: Number 18

While there's much inferior critical single hits to be associated with than The Rat, The Walkmen spent too long trying to get away from its all encompassing presence before giving in on last year's You & Me. Past bottled successfully, on Lisbon they set about painting the sketch marks they'd made around the concept of inwardly turned maximalism in technicolour. It helps that they have a frontman in Hamilton Leithauser whose natural delivery is a crooned gut wrenched appeal into the void, all the better for drawing out the rawest of emotion from the still beating heart of their almost elegantly almost wasted soaring. Now they can reincorporate the mariachi of A Hundred Miles Off (on Stranded's funereal march) without being chased out of town with sticks, as they're confident enough to take in all manner of influence and still wrap it safely into their world.

Such is their gift for the downcast that even when they pull out the rock'n'roll vibrato guitar and the sunshine vibes they feel they can title the song Woe Is Me. Angela Surf City is the closest they've come to The Rat - same double tapped drumming, same rush of guitars, same ultra tight surface tension - but there's something more surface optimistic about it, reminding us a little of the underrated Chicago punk-pop band the Smoking Popes, coming out as fiery anthemry from Hades on the other side. Built on a relentless train track rhythm, Blue As Your Blood turns out to be a longing love song built on restraint and confused feelings. By the time of While I Shovel The Snow's shadowy lament lit by fairy light guitar picking it becomes more clear that the Walkmen are on the tip of something transcendent, creating torch songs where there is no ballad to put them with, going flat out for abasement while still coming across as men of leisure. They know and use restraint, but they can all thunder out of the traps. Basically, they know.


Angela Surf City (live)

The full list

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