Vintage instruments notwithstanding, Hamilton Leithauser’s voice has always been the coolest aspect of The Walkmen’s sound. It injected peril into “The Rat,” made “We’ve Been Had” melancholic and gave “In the New Year” its grandiose glimmer. For sixth album Heaven, the band scales back everything else, allowing Leithauser to open up atop mostly mellow, relatively lean arrangements. And indeed, his Dylan-if-he-could-sing croon—warmer and less raspy this time out—carries the day.
Opener “We Can’t Be Beat,” featuring Leithauser floating over sparse acoustic guitar and quiet barbershop harmonies, sets the mood, and from there he shifts tones and attitudes as if turning pages in a book. The tempo picks up here and there (“Nightingales,” “The Love You Love”), adding just enough musical muscle. And when standout closer “Dreamboat” ends, you’ll find yourself starting again, drawn back into Heaven by Leithauser’s divine device.