You can always count on the Walkmen to consistently deliver incredible albums. While the quality of their music has never changed, the mood of the band has certainly evolved over the past decade. Heaven is calm and pensive, with nothing that resembles the fiery angst of their 2004 hit, “The Rat.” You can hear the group growing older and becoming fathers in both the sound and lyrics of Heaven. It must be emphasized however that “calm” and “pensive” are not synonymous with “boring.” While the Walkmen may have become tamer as a result of their maturation, the passion that has defined their sound is still there in abundance. Heaven is less urgent than their earlier albums, but no less ardent.
Most of the tracks successfully utilize repetition to their advantage — the songs are so catchy and well-executed that each new iteration of the chorus in “Heartbreaker” or the jangly guitar riff in “Nightingales” is welcomed. Not a weak moment exists on Heaven, but there are a few songs that transcend the rest. “Line By Line” continually builds on a guitar pattern reminiscent of the Doors’ magnum opus “The End,” while the vocals floats wordlessly overhead. The opening track, “We Can’t Be Beat,” is achingly beautiful due, in part, to subdued harmonies provided by Fleet Foxes’ frontman Robin Pecknold. And if the triumphant title track “Heaven” actually plays from the loudspeakers of heaven, with its earnest pleas to “remember, remember all we fight for,” then sign me up, because I’m there.
Heaven is a record that prompts introspection, best played at dusk when the sun is lingering between the trees and memories are swirling in your head. It’s graceful, elegant and assertive. Heaven projects a serene confidence, fully exemplified in “We Can’t Be Beat” as Leithauser fortunately assures us “we’ll never leave, we can’t be beat, the world is ours.”
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