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The Walkmen: You & Me

With the exception of "The Rat," from the Walkmen's 2005 sophomore album Bows + Arrows — and maybe one or two other songs — the New York band has been conducting studies in the unmarketability of unhooky, sustained-chord guitar noise, churchlike organs and stretched-to-the-limit solo vocals. At their worst, as on 2006's A Hundred Miles Off, they sound inaccessible and overly artsy, but new album You & Me reconciles the current Walkmen with the band's ragged earlier material. There's still plenty of vintage-amp racket all over the place, and the tempos aren't fast enough to disturb a sleeping drunk, but the Walkmen's heart is in it this time, making You & Me's aching world-weariness all the better. "Eugene, I've lost the world as we know it / I've lived in a suitcase for too long," Leithauser bellows on the waltzing, broke-ass "Seven Years of Holidays," while faint steel drum and a lonesome melody worthy of Harry Belafonte make "Long Time Ahead of Us" a rum-drunk tropical lullaby. The Walkmen may be skinny NYC noisemongers, but throughout You & Me, the band channels the thoughts and moods of a Graham Greene protagonist sweating, moping and hatching plans over a glass of booze at some remote island cantina.

 
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