Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The Walkmen, You and Me (Gigantic)

The buzz of a guitar's reverb in the skin of a drum, the rattle of a kick pedal as secondary percussion, the cracking of Hamilton Leithauser's voice at just the right moments, the rich hum of the organ... these are the subtle aural pleasures of You and Me. The intellectual pleasures are perhaps more acute; like a persistent stitch in your side, the Walkmen are here to remind you that aging isn't easy, and sure as hell isn't pretty, but it's unfailingly poignant, and real to boot. Y+M is an album-length rumination on that abrupt transition when you realize that you don't care if you look your age, because a) you can't be bothered anymore, and b) maybe there's an iota of dignity in not being 26 (or 29) anymore. The Walkmen sound tired, properly tired, and that results in a dropping of affectations. It sounds right, because damn it, who among us isn't weary? One foot in front of the other, we'll get by. They've been listening to Leonoard Cohen – we've got the proof right here – and they sound like it, courting melancholy and mule-headed hopefulness (the impossibly pretty “Canadian Girl”) in equal measure. When an album keeps its hat on for so much of its running length, the outbursts are all the more startling and meaningful. You and Me is a magnificent, well-tailored coat with fraying cuffs. It is elegant and desperate.

And then there's “On the Water,” which is about as perfect a song as I've ever heard. Its muted shuffle-step opening perfectly evokes, as Leithauser sings, “walking down this dirt road, watching at the sky, 'cause it's all I can do.” And when, at about the 2:13 mark, the song erupts like a shower of sparks, your heart does likewise, because you feel in an instant that you have permission to shout, ragged-voiced and pop-veined, every last damn thing that you've held back since things started to appear in your mind's rearview mirror. It is the wedding speech you've always wanted to give, the eulogy you hope to one day deliver, your tie askew, to a room full of gape-faced people. “On the Water” knows that you could have been somebody, and You and Me says you might be yet, but either way you'll have these songs; songs like heirlooms, songs like friends.

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