Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Heaven” by The Walkmen from the 2012 album Heaven on Fat Possum.
Ten years after their debut, The Walkmen return with their sixth and most “mature” album to date — that’s not our assessment, though, but the band’s own words, and it’s not a fact they hide. Even the artwork for Heaven itself — all photos by Arno Frugier — depicts the five members of The Walkmen with their families. Now that all have kids, their focus has naturally shifted, as lead singer Hamilton Leithauser himself explains in the band’s press materials: “The detachment you can feel throughout our younger records is gone. We felt like it was time to make a bigger, more generous statement.” But while other bands’ “mature” albums tend to be dulled or softened compared to their earlier, attention grabbing works, The Walkmen haven’t lost a beat or a sweeping lyrical croon. Leithauser’s vocals are as engaging as ever, and the band as tight and muscular, but they all seem more comfortable in stretching out and trying new sounds, like the laid back do-wop harmonies of album opener, “We Can’t Be Beat;” the sparse, acoustic “Southern Heart;” and the woozy, slack-key of “Jerry Jr.’s Tune,” a tune hummed rather than sung. Adding to the new album’s warmer sound is Seattle producer Phil Ek, who befriended The Walkmen after they toured with another band he worked with recently, Fleet Foxes. Recorded at Western Washington’s Bear Creek Studios, Heaven brims with a rich positivity beyond their previous work. That doesn’t mean the punchier songs are gone, though. Today’s featured song, the title track, with its driving pace and jangling melody, could have appeared on any of the band’s previous albums, yet it still echoes the theme of maturity with lyrics about looking back, one old friend to another: “our children will always hear / romantic tales of distant years” and “you’re my best friend / all of my life, you’ve always been”. And that’s the power of The Walkmen, who have remained close friends over the years where so many other bands have folded or broken up.
Currently, The Walkmen are performing in Europe, but they’ll be starting a U.S. tour later this month. They’re headlining most of the new tour, but during their stop in the Seattle area, they’ll be at White River Amphitheatre on July 21st in support of Florence & The Machine, making for one heck of a bill! You can find out more about where The Walkmen are playing and listen to more music on their website and Facebook page. For now, here’s the official video for today’s featured song: