Hamilton Leithauser

Black Hours

Ribbon Music

Jun 02, 2014 Issue #50 - June/July 2014 - Future Islands Bookmark and Share


Black Hours, Hamilton Leithauser's solo debut, was recorded shortly after The Walkmen announced an "extreme hiatus." 

His admirable-enough thesis here: Certain kinds of dignified cool always deserve to be in vogue. Like a Tom Waits or Paul Simon, he displays a penchant for exploring novelty and exoticism with a highbrow flair. But if Leithauser sounds undeniably comfortable in every suit he slips on throughout Black Hours, he's only intermittently inspired.

Things peak early with the single "Alexandra," which features Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend). Like last year's triumphant Vampire Weekend cut "Diane Young," it sucks the debris of contemporary production trends into its auto-tuned jets, but does so without sacrificing the throwback integrity of its gritty, Sun Records-like melody. Leithauser hasn't sounded quite this alive since growling "Can't you hear me?/I'm calling out your name" a decade ago on "The Rat."

Almost equally impressive is "I Retired," which goes as deep into doo-wop and gospel as anyone working under the indie banner has in recent years. Elsewhere, "11 O'Clock Friday Night" is a reasonably successful flirtation with gentrified afro-pop, and "I Don't Need Anyone" effectively reverts to the moodiness of The Walkmen albums Lisbon and You & Me. Much less memorable are the shades of vaudeville, samba, and nocturnal balladry that regularly surface.

Leithauser has always sounded appealingly weathered, and his soused, scholarly crooner routine remains the antithesis to aging rocker clichés. But whiskey-soaked, grandfatherly refinement alone can only provide so much mileage, and even vocal assistance from Dirty Projector Amber Coffman can't breathe life into wearier tracks.

It's just a little too easy to wonder how Black Hours may have evolved with Walkmen drummer Peter Bauer's restlessly inventive percussion propelling the lulls, or how a democratic approach may have suppressed a few indulgences. In other words, imagine if this had been a Walkmen record... (www.hamiltonleithauser.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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Ross
July 8th 2014
12:28pm

It’s just a little too easy to wonder if the reviewer correctly identified the Walkmen’s drummer as Matt Barrick, not Pete Bauer.