HAMILTON LEITHAUSER: BLACK HOURS
Frank Sinatra once sang how he was going to do it “My Way”, well with The Walkmen now officially on what’s being termed “an extreme hiatus”, the group’s lead singer, Hamilton Leithauser, is taking a page out of old blue eyes’ songbook and has released his first album as a solo artist. The album, entitled Black Hours, takes more than just a little inspiration from the “Chairman of the Board” and finds Leithauser in full-on crooner mode and sounding like he loves every minute of it. Though Black Hours has a more, shall we say, mature sound then early Walkmen records, their last album, Heaven, was a significant indicator of what direction Leithauser was headed in. Hamilton hasn’t completely left his old band behind though because the instantly recognizable tones of Walkmen guitarist Paul Maroon are found all over the record and he is not only onboard as lead guitarist, but as co-producer and co-songwriter as well…thus easing the transition for Leithauser and his fans.
The album was recorded with quite the cast of characters; Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij played and co-produced on two songs; while Fleet Foxes’ multi-intstrumentalist Morgan Henderson, Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman and Richard Swift from The Shins make up the core of Leithauser’s very accomplished studio band.
The aforementioned Sinatra sound rears its head on album opener “5AM”, what with all of its late night (or black hours, if you will) jazz bar mood and emotive vocals. Leithauser has always had one of the most powerful voices in indie rock, but he has now trained it to not only scream to the rafters but to cry into your drink too.
On Black Hours, Leithauser never sits in one musical mindset for too long. “Alexandra” is the best pop song that The Walkmen never wrote; “I Retired” spends time in both country twang and doo-wop as he sings about “retiring from my fight / retiring from my war”; and “Bless Your Heart” is the tender love song.
The album’s true gem is the very Walkmen-like “I Don’t Need Anyone.” It’s here that Leithauser and his band get more aggressive in tone and tempo to very appealing
As a dedicated Walkmen fan I honestly hope there is time in the not so distant future that we are talking about how the band has put the “extreme hiatus’ term to bed and have begun work on a new album or have booked a tour, but that is no way to suggest that I don’t want to hear more solo material from Hamilton Leithauser. Black Hours is the work of a musician who has cemented his past and is paving his future…with or without The Walkmen!
- Johnny Hooper