hamThe Walkmen have been one of my favorite bands since the first time I heard them many, many years ago.  I attended their last show ever, and wrote about their break up last year.  The members of The Walkmen have been keeping busy, however, and they have been releasing some great stuff. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser has always had one of my favorite voices in music, and on his solo effort, Black Hours it is stronger than ever.

I almost can’t believe how great Black Hours sounds with Leithauser’s voice considering how much of a huge change of pace it is for a lead singer from a band that is most well known for songs like “The Rat”; the first thing you hear is piano and strings on Black Hours. The music here is just epic and incredible, Leithauser is at the top of his game, and his voice is front and center throughout the album, sometimes taking complete a capella solos.  I’ve written a lot about throwback stuff, but usually it’s things that are throwbacks to shoegaze or the 1980’s, Leithauser throws it back a whole lot further than that with songs like “The Silent Orchestra” and “I Retired” which almost sound like they’re out of the 50’s or 60’s, and that’s not a knock against them, they’re incredibly well executed.

After the first two tracks, Black Hours takes a bit of a turn. “Alexandra” was the first single I heard from the record, and it’s chaotic fun, and that makes sense, since it was co-written by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend.  There are some songs that are true to Leithauser’s Walkmen form, “I Don’t Need Anyone” and “11 O’Clock Friday Night”, “Bless Your Heart”, and the album closer “The Smallest Splinter” really quench the thirst for new Walkmen music,  but are definitely new.

I really like Black Hours. It’s given Leithauser a bit more freedom, and he’s still working with Paul Maroon on this record, so some of it still has a bit of a Walkmen feel. But even though I said there are many songs that remind me of The Walkmen, do not go into it expecting Bows + Arrows.  It’s a mature Leithauser, and NPR referred it to as a “sequel” to the Walkmen’s music. I agree with that, as the album seems like a bit of a natural progression from Heaven to a much more mature sound. Even though Heaven was a more mature Walkmen, it seems as though going solo helped Leithauser mature and grow a bit more, and Black Hours is a showcase of that.

Black Hours is out June 3, and you can listen to it now on CBC by clicking here. (or NPR here)

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