Early on in his set, Hamilton Leithauser flashed that signature smirk: “My kid’s here tonight, so I have to spell out the title of this next one: ‘Dad is D-R-U-N-K.'”
I had been introduced to the little gal earlier that evening. She now sat beside her grandparents, clapping excitedly for her dad.
Said dad is the former frontman of The Walkmen. The indie rock band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2013 and its members ventured forth with solo efforts — Leithauser’s Black Hours (produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij), Walter Martin’s collection of children’s songs We’re All Young Together, and Peter Matthew Bauer’s Liberation! And last month, Leithauser and Walkmen guitarist Paul Maroon released Dear God, a set of nine original songs plus covers of Tom Paxton, Will Oldham, the Everly Brothers, and V.F. Stewart.
The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. This playlist features some of my favorite new albums from the first half of 2014. Hope you enjoy.
The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. And when the road beckons — when you roll down the window and taste the freedom in the air — those moments call for sunny, glossy indie rock. This playlist includes some of my favorite albums from the first half of 2014. It starts with shades of folk (Americana, folktronica, folk-pop), makes side a excursion into pop and neo-soul, and closes with ebullient, sunshiny rock. Hope you enjoy.
We Could Stay Gold — Summer 2014 Mix First Aid Kit • Damien Jurado • Sylvan Esso • PHOX • Vandaveer Lake Street Dive • Conor Oberst • South Rail • Mimicking Birds • Ha Ha Tonka Beck • The Rosebuds • Damon Albarn • Hamilton Leithauser
If you like this music, please support the artists by purchasing their albums. Just click on the track listing to go to the online store.
The Swedish folk duo’s charming, ambling song may be my theme for summer. It seems so fragile on first listen, but the lilting vocals convey lyrics of surprising heft. To borrow from my favorite Byronic hero: “I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem.”
Sylvan Esso is the Durham, North Carolina folk-electro-pop project of Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (Megafaun). Meath’s voice is warm and weary as she takes us on fast-forward through the seasons, sketching vignettes: Wild winters, warm coffee / mom’s gone, do you love me / Blazing summer, cold coffee / baby’s gone, do you love me? Sanborn provides the electronic texture — the skittering synths, the chimes between verses. There is something different about Sylvan Esso. Something delightful.
For Walkmen fans, don’t expect a replica of the breakneck pace and howl of "The Rat." But do expect the signature combination of grit and vulnerability that Leithauser has perfected over the years. His lithe voice can convey scorn and aggression in a raw-throated delivery, but also softens to allow the pathos to seep through the cracks in the bravado. In "Black Hours," Leithauser slows it down, smoothing his voice into a dark, hypnotic croon that draws us in while warning us to keep our distance.
The Walkmen may be retired, but its lead singer definitely (and thankfully) is not.
When I left the safety of suburbia for the mean streets of New York, the Walkmen’s “We’ve Been Had” was my anthem. The song (from the band’s 2002 debut album) sounds off-kilter, which was how I felt. The piano intro — jangly and slightly out-of-tune, like a vintage upright — is diced up by percussion. The melody stumbles drunkenly up and down the scale. The lyrics are ironic, disaffected: I’m a modern guy, I don’t care much for the go-go or the retro image … We’ve been had, you say it’s over, somehow it got easy to laugh out loud. The elements feel jarring when they first collide, but somehow everything coalesces in a way that is just right, just like the cacophony of the city.
In his solo debut, Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser explores a range of influences, fusing the cool moodiness of ’50s-era Sinatra with flavors of jazz, folk rock, and indie pop. If that strikes you as discordant, just listen to Leithauser work his musical alchemy. For Walkmen fans, don’t expect a replica of the breakneck pace and howl of “The Rat.” But do expect the signature combination of grit and vulnerability that Leithauser has perfected over the years. His lithe voice can convey scorn and aggression in a raw-throated delivery, but also softens to allow the pathos to seep through the cracks in the bravado. In “Black Hours,” Leithauser slows it down, smoothing his voice into a dark, hypnotic croon that draws us in while warning us to keep our distance.
It’s summer in D.C. The heat radiates off the sidewalks. Your morning runs might as well take place in a sauna. And your World Cup bracket is in shambles. Happily, live music cures most ailments, so here are a few suggestions.