"When I used to go out I knew everyone I saw / Now I go out alone, if I go out at all" so sang front Walkman Hamilton Leithauser on ‘The Rat’, which along with ‘Little House of Savages’ was the other ‘Hit’ from ‘Bows and Arrows’, the New York Five Piece’s second album released in 2004. Well the good news for Hamilton, four years and 2 and a bit albums later (2006’s Hundred Miles Off was followed by a cover album of John Lennon and Harry Nillson’s 1974 Pussy Cats) is that he seems to have found some significant company to which to devote plenty of material from their latest ‘You & Me’ (the title of which could be a giveaway, the album itself certainly was, with proceeds from the first two weeks of digital sales going straight to The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer centre in New York). The even better news for the rest of us, is that this already great band just keep getting better.
“You know I’d never leave you and that’s just how it is” (On the Water),
“I tell you I love you and my heart’s in the strangest place, that’s how it started and that’s how it ends” (In the New Year)
“You are the morning and I am the night” (Canadian Girl)
Are just a select few of the lyrical bouquets presented by Leithauser, as beautifully gift-wrapped as ever by the vintage instruments favoured by the band. Ok, ’You & Me’ has actually been out for the best part of a year, but as past releases have proved, there really is no point rushing into conclusions on a Walkmen record, once in, it’s going to stay with you for a long time, maturing with every listen. Take ‘Seven Years of Holidays’ for example, there, amongst the reverbed guitar and sparse-distant drums, lies the subtlest of string sections - quietly elevating this previously unassuming track up into the favourites after the twenty-something listen.
But picking favourites from ‘You & Me’ is a fairly pointless exercise, whereas 'Bows and Arrows' and ‘A Hundred Miles Off’ had their clear and immediate standouts, ‘You & Me’ is built up of fourteen parts to make a devastatingly beautiful whole. For me they are up there with The National as America’s standout band at the moment, if sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent, rocking tunes is what you are after. 6 months in, I’m still waiting for a different album to come along and knock it from its heavily repeated listen perch. Great Stuff.