Published May 26, 2014One of the advantages a lead singer has after a band breaks up is the voice. So when the Walkmen announced an "extreme hiatus" last year, followed by three members prepping solo albums, it was natural for frontman Hamilton Leithauser to garner more interest than Walter Martin and Peter Matthew Bauer.
The good news for Walkmen fans nervous about the band's uncertain future is that Leithauser's debut, Black Hours, will scratch that itch. With fellow Walkman Paul Maroon assisting him on all but two tracks, it's much less a rock'n'roll album than the ones he made for 13 years. Leithauser is no doubt keen to diversify, admitting this was a chance at some Sinatra-style love songs, but there are enough traces of his band's reverb-rock template for him to take some chances.
Featuring a guest list that includes Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend), Morgan Henderson (Blood Brothers), Richard Swift, Hugh McIntosh (the Recoys) and Amber Coffman (Dirty Projectors), Leithauser surrounded himself with the right talent to achieve his goals on Black Hours.
He drapes opener "5 AM" in elegant Scott Walker strings, while trying and nailing a country-doo wop hybrid on "I Retired," and laying down a stomping beat for "Alexandra" that definitely bears the mark of Batmanglij's animated side.
Black Hours could easily have been Walkmen-lite, but Leithauser's ambition to seize the opportunity, and eschew the obvious, results in an album his voice — and a number of his fans — has no doubt longed for. (Ribbon/Domino)