A lot of folks who thought they liked The Walkmen smelled a rat when they heard 2006’s A Hundred Miles Off, or more accurately put, they didn’t hear one. Nothing on that disc sounded remotely like “The Rat”—the hard-driving track that had garnered so much attention from Pitchfork, the A.V. Club and the like two years earlier—and that cost the New York quintet both audience and acclaim.
Apparently, that’s just fine by The Walkmen. Fourth LP You & Me makes no attempt to recapture the hipster buzz of “The Rat,” refocusing instead on the laid-back vibe of the vastly underrated Hundred Miles. Though it’s unlikely to rekindle the passions of lost listeners (or attract all that many new ones), You & Me plays like the record the band was meant to make: a timeless, right-of-indie-center triumph of restraint.
The album’s best cuts—the crescendoing “In the New Year”; woodblock-triggered samba “Postcards From Tiny Islands”; swaying lullaby “Red Moon”—set a tranquil scene without sacrificing bite; call it music for lazing about on a sailboat … in a trench coat. Hamilton Leithauser’s croon still evokes Bob Dylan, but his Basement Tapes raggedness has morphed into Blood on the Tracks confidence. Just check how much feeling he squeezes out of the simple line “The sun is now shining down on me” in shimmering ballad “New Country.” Trumps some fast-talking rodent any day.
The bottom line: ****