The Walkmen // Heaven // Bella Union // Out Now
Through time, Heaven has been a well documented metaphysical construct. From the Parables of Jesus and Matthew 13:24 telling us “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field”, through to Belinda Carlisle chipping in with the earworm inducing “Heaven is a place on Earth” there has been no shortage of heaven citing. Well, as of June 2012, the heavenly documentation list swells even further with the inclusion of the seventh studio album from The Walkmen who released Heaven via Bella Union.
Opening with the intimate and tender We Can’t Be Beat where you’re drawn in by the unmistakable vocals and some slightly hypnotic guitar arpeggios you could be forgiven for thinking that The Walkmen are about to play it relatively safe (again). Three tracks in and any thoughts like this are quickly put to one side with the steady pounding and riff-tastic Heartbreaker. Before too long you find yourself belting out ‘It’s not the singer, it’s the song’ a little too loud whilst doing the dishes alone in the kitchen at 11.30pm on a wet Tuesday night – Just me? Oh...
Heartbreaker signals a pace change for the album and is when Heaven really bursts into life. It’s easily the band’s most catchy and accessible output since Bows and Arrows from an era that predates Twitter. That stands for a sum total of eight tracks until Heaven kicks in, which is, for me, their finest work yet. From there we’re also treated to Line by Line and Song for Leigh which are both additional highlights of a record that’s definitely, to coin a phrase, “more thriller than filler”.
There’s a real depth to the album in that each time I spin it, I find something else to love. This seems to be textbook Phil Ek production and is evident in many of his previous efforts (see Modest Mouse and Fleet Foxes). Indeed Ek recruits head Fleet Fox Robin Pecknold to layer some of his vocal harmonies in the background of album opener ‘We Can't Be Beat’.
Heaven is a record that bears similarities to both Matthew 13:24 and Belinda in as far as it’s The Walkmen’s finest seed to date and the sewing of it has resulted in some of their most catchy and radio-friendly songs since The Rat in 2004. Thankfully, for the sakes of this pretty tired and overly-drawn out metaphor, that is where the similarities end. There is a notable absence of agricultural sabotage and ozone threatening levels of hairspray through the LP. Instead we are treated with a pretty flawless and accessible record that is sure to feature in many an end-of-year list.