These are the good years
Ah, the best we’ll ever know
These golden light years
As good as that last Radiohead record sounded piped through your headphones, or the way Beats by Dre turns your head into a stadium giveaway when the bass amplification takes over, the best albums beg for speakers and space, people and places. Fill the room.
The latest from The Walkmen, Heaven (Fat Possum), wants so desperately to resonate off your walls. It’s the exultant third album in a trilogy that began with 2008’s seminal You & Me and continued with 2010’s Lisbon. On their first three full-lengths, Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone, Bows + Arrows, and A Hundred Miles Off, the NY band rambled and jangled like downtown drinkers, trading in equal parts arrogance and romantic commiseration. At times they were brilliant (most notably on “We’ve Been Had,” “The Rat,” and “Little House of Savages”), and elsewhere they were raw and unkempt, honing their craft in preparation for this trio of brilliant records.
You & Me‘s beautiful sadness, its heart-rending yearning, is buoyed by an unmistakeable optimism. “In the New Year” dries tears and hugs you around the shoulders. Lisbon is plaintiff searching and life-affirming wandering, even whilst “Stranded” and starry-eyed, on either coast or under foreign skies. Heaven is our reward. Echoes from the prior records remain, but these songs release joy, the way t-shirt weather evenings after days of too much sun have a way of detoxifying tension, anxiety, and any shreds of sadness. Clear the floor, and roll down your car windows. And if you haven’t seen the best live act going right now, find tickets to a Walkmen show this year. There will be no better way to experience the room-filling power of this record — easily the best this year has to offer (and probably the best album of the last two years) — than to be in the same room as the performers.
It almost makes me not to want to link their first single, the title track, here, knowing how much is lost through tinny computer speakers or buffered compression. Promise to listen for real, won’t you? Especially since, as Lazybear predicts, this little tune will be Team USA’s triumphant theme song for this year’s summer games.
As long as you have the stereo cranked and the neighbors over (or pissed off), here are two more recent releases with big sounds and ringing guitars that fill the room, fill your heart, and spill out into the avenues.
Adam Olenius of Shout Out Louds and Markus Krunegård of Laasko form Swedepop magic as We Are Serenades, and their collaborative effort, Criminal Heaven (Cherrytree Records), strikes a balance between orchestral exuberance and delicate Nordic whimsy. “Birds,” the first single, reminds us how much Swedish bands love it when their audience sings along.
With both Bethany Cosentino and Frankie Rose venturing into slightly different musical territory this year, it’s nice that we have Vivian Girl Katy Goodman around to keep the female-fronted fuzzy-dreampop mojo moving. Sees the Light, the second record from her solo project, La Sera, is equal parts 60’s spunk and 70’s punk.