“In the New Year”, the first available track from the New York band’s forthcoming fourth album, You and Me, is more giving and direct than most Walkmen songs, sending familiar themes– romance, the new year– billowing out to grander proportions through the force of the performance. The push-pull between drumless verses and loud, swaying, barstool singalong choruses helps make for one of the best Walkmen tracks since Bows and Arrows’ “The Rat”.
The music that inspired the Walkmen to compose You and Me follows in a tradition of song writing that goes back to early rock ‘n’ roll: the intimacy and energy of Elvis Presley’s and Buddy Holly’s early recordings, and the massive voice and orchestration of Roy Orbison. And it carries on through people like Bob Marley and Randy Newman and on to bands like The Pogues and The Modern Lovers – the sort of songs that are very much a product of their time and place while firmly rooted in tradition. The vocals were performed live right in the room with the full band, and sometimes a horn section too.
With some romance and drama, You and Me harnesses a sense of classic live-band production into meticulously constructed, unique-sounding rock songs. The sound would definitely not be mistaken for old, but it would be impossible to ignore the most timeless influences. You and Me offers a distinctive twist to theâ€œWalkmenâ€ sound of their first three records. Each song shows focus, and an up-beat enthusiasm apparent in all lyrics, music, and performances. It is a long record, clocking in at just under an hour, and it presents a wide range of ideas. The pacing is very important, as the band felt it was essential to set the right tone, and show each song in its proper light.
Writing and recording of You and Me happened over a vibrant and rigorous 2-year period, during which the members of The Walkmen were split between Philadelphia and New York. The band rode China Town busses five days a week to work in two small rehearsal spaces (an old nightclub in Chelsea, New York and a warehouse in Fish Town, Philadelphia) to freeze by the kerosene heater in the winter, and sweat it out in the summer. By the time of the recordâ€™s pressing there were over four hundred cast-off 8-track tapes littering both spaces.
The song I Lost You was the first major breakthrough, and inspired many songs to follow. Maroon was teaching himself the viola and trumpet at the time, and the song was the culmination of many 8-track experiments. The new warmth and romance in the music seemed to beg for the same from the lyrics, so the cold and stand-offish tone that had run a-ground in recent years was abandoned for a more personal and real approach. I Lost Youâ€™ s strange pacing, and the way in which both the music and the lyrics together pushed towards an Orbison-like crescendo, was the new direction everyone had hoped for. Songs like Red Moon, On the Water, If Only it Were True, and In the New Year were soon to follow.
The album was recorded in two installments – the first at Sweet Tea studios in Oxford, Mississippi (where they had worked on Bows and Arrows) with engineer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Hold Steady, Sonic Youth) and in a couple of sessions in New York’s Gigantic Studios (built by Phillip Glass) with engineer Chris Zane (who the boys consider “the best f@#king engineer in the world” and a “f@#king god-send”).
You and Me is a solid and complex showcase of inspired songwriting. Romantic and celebratory, this is the sound of The Walkmen returning to classic form.
The Walkmen You & Me
1. DÃ³nde estÃ¡ la Playa
2. Flamingos (for Colbert)
3. On the Water
4. In the New Year
5. Seven Years of Holidays (for Stretch)
6. Postcards from Tiny Islands
7. Red Moon
8. Canadian Girl
9. Four Provinces
10. Long Time Ahead of Us
11. The Blue Route
12. New Country
13. I Lost You
14. If Only It Were True
8/18: Bowery Ballroom, New York
8/19: Bowery Ballroom, New York
8/21: Troubadour, Los Angeles
8/22: Troubadour, Los Angeles
8/23 : San Francisco, CA (Outside Lands Festival)
8/27: Doug Fir, Portland
8/28: Richards on Richard, Vancouver (co-bill w/ Man Man)
8/29: Rifflandia Festival, Victoria (Black Mountain, Destroyer, etc.)
8/30: Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle