I’ve always felt a little iffy about The Walkmen’s music. I think it’s because of their downright stubbornness to not stray from their “comfort zone.” The Walkmen have always emphasized a distinct sound using vintage musical instruments and it seems like they aren’t willing to branch out much farther than that. Their steady doses of slow burning instrumentals accompanying Hamilton Leithauser’s distinctively throaty vocals have always defined the band. However, I have to say it can get a little boring. The Walkmen have just always had a habit of picking up the tempo just a little, reaching towards the top, and then once you can see it within 50 feet they drop you down into a depressing boozy bar like low. Some people dig it, others don’t. It’s just one of those things you learn to love or always hate.
So when I sat down to listen to You & Me, I kept thinking “is this going to be another A Hundred Miles Off?” Which is why I was so surprised to find that You & Me was actually a solid and complex piece of work. The lyrics are gripping and the instrumentation, that rises and falls all over the place almost haphazardly, somehow provides a great backdrop for Leithauser’s songwriting. The album definitely gets better the more you listen to it. Once pushed and pulled apart, You & Me reveals itself to be a much darker, engaging album. In all honesty, it’s a surprisingly awesome return to form, reminiscent of the quirkiness found on Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone and Bows & Arrows.
The album is the perfect installment for those Sunday afternoons when you sit on your porch and enjoy a nice stout (or some watery Budweiser for those of you who choose to not appreciate a good beer). Depending on where you are in the world, the sun is just starting to slowly tumble from its highest peak and watering down the sky in a picturesque and artsy way. It’s the point in the day where everything runs together and the beer in your hand is helping you to cope and forget about it all. You & Me is this moment. It is a mesh of slow-burning ballads that don’t get you anywhere, but after listening to them it doesn’t matter because they don’t have to.
Songs like “Red Moon” and “Long Time Ahead of Us” have a slow, lurking tempo that wouldn’t even wake or surprise a homeless drunk. At the same time, songs like “Canadian Girl” give us mushy keyboard effects that help preserve a perfect moment within one’s drunken haze. It’s no surprise that Leithauser really speaks to the drunken bar crowd on this album. In “Postcards from Tiny Islands” he sings, “I’ll be drunk before too long/And I’ll keep up this sappy talk” which really makes you laugh at all those chumps you almost always meet at bars. There is, of course, only one alluring up-tempo track, “Four Providences,” which keeps in check the bands’ ability to lure you in with a song that isn’t representative of their unique sound (“The Rat” anyone?).
Overall, You & Me is a great album, but I don’t see it being one I’ll listen to nonstop anytime soon. I’m too much of an energetic person for that. The Walkmen truly have created something great here though, and hopefully this album won’t get overlooked. You & Me just might be their best album yet.