And so it was that in the middle of August, The Walkmen ushered forth the autumn of 2008. It went slowly, shuffling down cobble-stoned steps under the flickering of dimly lit street lamps. It was a nostalgically romantic trip, filled with vintage swing and a thick atmosphere. Reverberant howls emanated from underground dive bars where patrons sucked cigarettes and whispered amongst each other through whiskey soaked rasps. This is You & Me.
A return to form of sorts, after the somewhat mediocre reception of 06's A Hundred Miles Off and Pussy Cats, this fourth album of original material is a solid achievement in classic songwriting for the modern era. They've pulled bits and pieces of the best they've done over the past 7 years and created something that is moody and dark yet warm and vibrant. "Seven Years Of Holidays (for Stretch)" feels retained from their previous two releases, but that's all that has remained. Lead single and immediate favorite "In The New Year" is The Walkmen through and through, and as with companion track "Blue Route" could easily be mistaken for outtakes from the commercial breakout, Bows + Arrows. There's even a bit of a throwback to their debut, with tracks like opener "DÃ³nde EstÃ¡ La Playa" and "Postcards From Tiny Islands" both distant at first but then explosive with guitar attacks.
Thankfully though, the majority of You & Me isn't a self-referential rehashing of their previous releases. Instead The Walkmen take a significant stride into long-lived legitimacy with a tasteful blend of slow, warm and classy tunes. Tracks like "On The Water", "Canadian Girl" and closer "If Only It Were True" showcase a renewed love for that old swing that was apparent when they covered The Drifters' "There's Goes My Baby". They slow it further yet with the ballad "Red Moon" and even bring in the trumpets once thought too random on A Hundred.
The true test of a great album though, is whether or not the entire track list wins out over its best track. That unfortunately is not true, but to no fault of The Walkmen nor You & Me. The album remains great but is only made better when just over halfway through you hit "Four Provinces". The Walkmen have found their swing and it is never more apparent right here. There's a little subtlety in their progression that just sort of pulls the song together and has managed to grab me hook, line & sinker.
The Walkmen have always been a band whose music is best utilized in the cold & rainy months of the year. There was an embracing element to their first two releases; a damp blanket and a cigarette. With You & Me there returns that same embrace, though now it's warmer. More like a crackling fire and a bit of whiskey.
MP3 Download - "In The New Year"