Before their new album Heaven was released, The Walkmen dropped a bunch of songs from it to promote its release.
Now we’re on video number two, after the memory-lane-walkin’ "Heaven" came out in May. "The Love You Love" is the next single from the band’s fantastic new album Heaven and was directed by Sean Pecknold, the brother of Fleet Foxes main dude Robin Pecknold. All you need to know is that kids are freaky.
Okay, the first thing I absolutely have to talk about before anything else is this darn cover. I believe the idea was to have a classy cover that complements this Frank Sinatra-influenced album. This album artwork is so trashy; it looks like a little girl did it on Word. It isn’t even properly centred. Look at the word ‘Walk’: the ‘K’ barely fits on and the ‘W’ has a whole load of space. And, have they changed their name to ‘The Walk Men’? Why on earth is their name broken in to two words? I don’t call myself Step Hen. Anyway, it’s only artwork and in no way does it represent how good the music is, which is, after all, what actually matters.
I love even-numbered years for one reason: there will (without a doubt) be a new Walkmen album. Not once have the dedicated band let down their fans; they have always managed to release an album every two years following their debut, which (although its’ hard to believe) was ten years ago. “Heaven” is an album that looks back on the band’s career. It’s full of lyrics about certain points in the band’s career; the video for the title track features photos from day one of their career all the way through to recording this album with Phil Ek.
When anyone says the word “Walkmen”, a certain image pops in to my head: the band is playing in Spain at around midnight, with Hamilton Leithuaser sporting a buzz cut and a certain stance so that he’s able to yell as loud as he can; the lighting makes the whole band look like silhouettes. Now, if you’ve never seen the band before and have only heard this album, it wouldn’t be far out for you to think that they all sport Iron & Wine type beards and sit on stools at their gigs. This album’s music continues the space and air of "Lisbon" with a touch of rock ‘n’ roll that features Hamilton Leithuaser’s best Robin Pecknold impression.
For the people who are worried about the lack of rock or angst in this album (like I was), do not fear. This album is a lovely, dreamy album, but be realistic: The Walkmen aren’t going to release an album without any fast-paced, thumping jams. “The Love You Love” is the “Angela Surf City” of "Heaven" and “The Witch” is quite haunting. Although I remember when Leithuaser smashed his way through the songs and broke the sound levels at gigs, I quickly forget all about it when Ham is picking away at “Southern Heart”, a quiet solo song (!), or when I hear “We Can’t Be Beat”, a song with a Fleet Foxes feel and the drumbeat like that of a marching band.
The album might not go down well with people who criticize Hamilton for mimicking Bob Dylan, because if there’s one thing "Heaven" does, it’s to use the music as a velvet cushion for the crown that is Leithuaser’s vocals. There are plenty of comparisons to be made to Dylan and Leonard Cohen and people may hate it, but in of the six albums under The Walkmen's belt, Ham’s vocals have never sounded more distinguished or more polished. Maybe instead of accusing him of mimicking said icons, he should be placed amongst them as an icon himself. I believe that he’s the greatest singer of our generation and a true lyrical genius.
Throughout the album there might be a few too many ‘whoa oh ohhhh”s for my liking. “Nightingales” and “Heaven” are the prime culprits. They come off a little corny, but thinking about it, most of this album is corny. Pretty much every song is a love tale; the album is even called “Heaven” for Christ sake. There’s nothing cornier than that.
If there’s one thing they know how to do, it’s how to end the album magnificently. The final song, “Dreamboat”, is the most emotional song in their entire career; it pulls your heart strings like never before, and when Leithuaser sings “no no no no no no” it’s one of those moments that absolutely destroys you. On paper they might not sound like the most powerful lyrics in the world, but trust me, they are… and pretty corny too.
These days, it really is a rarity for a band to manage to release an album every two years, and it’s even more of a feat to imagine them doing it for ten more years. They all have families, and to release an album bordering on amazing after it felt like "Lisbon" came out just last week shows a genuine fondness for their career. This is why The Walkmen are one of my all-time favourite bands. Other bands wish they could do what they do. "Heaven" makes me think about The Walkmen’s entire career; it’s something so unique and special that they really should be proud of all they’ve accomplished. I would say that this is one of the best albums The Walkmen have created, but I suppose I say that about all of them. They really can’t be beat.
I’ve loved Fleet Foxes ever since I saw them perform at my college in 2008 after seeing their name plastered all-over Seattle, music websites, and the side of Easy Street Records in Queen Anne. When they took the stage, it was clear they had all undergone what’s known as a “beard pact” and each wore a flannel woolier than the last, apart from Robin Pecknold who had lost his clothes somehow and was wearing a large red raincoat. Aside from the heartiness of their sound, I was left with a strange interest in their drummer, J. Tillman, who had unleashed some of the quickest, funniest stage-banter I’d ever heard. He seemed smartly aware of the band’s up-and-coming reputation but kept his comments in the interest of entertaining his audience. “Fear Fun”, Tillman’s release under the stage-name Father John Misty, retains that smart cynicism while giving him a chance to show his diverse songwriting abilities.
Tillman paints Father John Misty to be, at his core, a devout figure of Americana and traditionalist folk through writing lyrics like, “Oh pour me another drink/And punch me in the face/You can call me Nancy,” exuding a humorous and sincere air. Father John Misty may be framed by the two genres but he combines so many different sounds that he comes across more worldly than down-home. From the start of “Fun Times In Babylon”, Tillman builds his music into a collage of stomp-claps, richly contagious melody, and speak of beasts, death, and Hollywood. Even “I’m Writing A Novel”, possibly the most straightforward homage to big-band country, is leveled by lyrics that touch on talking monkeys and Canadian shamans. Through Father John, Tillman asserts himself as a creative entity who’s seemingly on the fence of practically every genre he wields. For many artists this balancing act is nearly impossibly, but Tillman comes through song after song with combinations of sounds that are uniquely his own.
The record also highlights Father John’s plight of fame-induced sadness. On “O I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me” he sings “Everyone’s riding on the rolling tide/Their hearts are heavy and the sea is wide/I’ll never make it to the other side, friends of mine.” Even through the illustrious music, his self-defeating lyrics add a tone of sadness within every song. Given the diverse nature of his lyrics, “Misty’s Nightmares 1& 2” could be about virtually any horrific event or idea but he chooses to sing about something more relatable. He sings, “Now I’m watching you changing the mirror/And I’m unable to move/When all my girlfriends appear in the doorway/I don’t know how they got here.” In this context, the song is darkly hilarious and honest but the lines between Father John and Tillman are blurred to such an extent that it no longer appears to be a persona.
His relationship with women seems to be an area of focus for his lyrics on songs like “Only Son of the Ladies’ Man,” where he proclaims the death of another character from Father John’s universe. In explaining the Ladies’ Man, Tillman transforms himself into an all-encompassing seedy man through lyrics like, “Saw my ancient hero on the Sunset Strip/He left behind a legacy of ruin/Now painted ladies want to hold my gun.” In this mindset, Tillman is able to express insecurities, real or not, by using fictitious characters to blend different tones together.
Tillman has been writing music for years before he started drumming for Fleet Foxes. In fact, Damien Jurado is credited for helping Tillman gain more recognition. After a handful of solo albums, Tillman has created a masterfully crafted album filled with smart lyrics, thought-provoking sentiment, and overall wonderful music. "Fear Fun" not only validates his departure from his old band but solidifies his role as a colorful and unpredictable singer-songwriter, capable of assuming a variety of genres with ease.
Listen to the new song by Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes singer) below.
Over the last week or so Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold has been going through a bit of a public breakup, with long-term girlfriend Olivia.
He posted to his Twitter account a few times, all of which have been since deleted, about the breakup. With tweets like how weird it is to be single after 10 years, about how tough it is to be left for someone else, and that he needs to go away for a while, it’s clear that the breakup wasn’t his choice.
When you hear the song below it’s even more evident, and it’s about as personal as he’s gotten with his music. Chances are this will shape the sound of Fleet Foxes' next album, however far away that may be.
Update: Robin Pecknold has since deleted his Twitter and the song from Soundcloud. There’s a video of the song below.