Album Review: The Walkmen retain sound, still take risks

With an echoing guitar and piano sound that weaves elements of Velvet Underground, The Cure and Bob Dylan all at once, The Walkmen have become prominent figures in the indie music circuit.

Their two previous albums, Americana-tinged A Hundred Miles Off and the Harry Nilsson cover album Pussy Cats, offered departures from their normal sound, which was molded by their first studio album Everybody Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone.

Their newest offering, You & Me, allows The Walkmen to keep the band's Dylan-like sound, while exploring new areas.

You & Me starts off with an ode to island partying in "Donde Esta la Playa." Such lyrics as "there is still sand in my suitcase / there is still salt in my teeth," portray a longing for escape from monotonous workdays, augmented by intermittent bursts of guitar and drums.

"In the New Year" is shaped into a bittersweet anthem of renewal with blind optimism. Front man Hamilton Leithauser sings, "I know that it's true / it's gonna be a good year," as he gives a final farewell to his ex. With each refrain, the guitar and organ swell in the back over Leithauser's raspy vocals.

In addition to these traditional Walkmen songs, the band is testing the waters with such styles as the vintage love song, with "Canadian Girl" sounding like something out of a 50s jukebox.

"I Lost You" depicts the last attempts to salvage a dying relationship. Martin croons "so hang on to me / hang on to me / the world's going round / and time's cutting out," as the mellow guitar and drums slowly build to the song's tragic end of acceptance, then quickly die out in the last few seconds.

"Red Moon" is a blend of acoustic guitar and trumpet work that crafts what sounds like a Latin funeral march. The album ends on a touching and sober note with "If Only It Were True," a lonely ballad of a man succumbing to the illusions of his hopeful dreams.

The reverberating guitars, coupled with new musical techniques, provide a constant stream of melancholia throughout the album and work to shape You & Me into the Walkmen's most elegiac album to date.