With the beloved Brooklyn indie band on an “extreme hiatus,” we’ve seen three of its members release solo albums this year. And initially I’d say it’s good news: between former frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s Black Hours and now Peter Matthew Bauer’s Liberation!, it’s kinda like we got two new Walkmen records in 2014, both superior to 2012’s Heaven, the failure of which I attribute to producer Phil Ek’s Fleet Fox-ifying of their sound.
PETER MATTHEW BAUER – Liberation! (Mexican Summer): Organist/pianist Bauer comes out swinging against religion in whatever form he finds it, be it the ashram he was born in, an innocuous plane convo with a scientologist, or old-timey piano overlaying faint “field recordings” of the ezan in Istanbul. Regardless of how more theme-oriented his debut is compared with his former band’s output, he’s done little to shed the sound, a difficult task after fourteen years: conjures a Slow Train Coming Dylan to Leithauser’s boozey Nilsson (“You are the Chapel”); borrows their Americana-rolling rhythms (“Philadelphia Raga”) and Maroon’s free and chiming guitar tics (“Irish Wake in Varanasi”). Conversely, it sounds far fuller aurally than any Walkmen disc, but had they ever given a thought to God rather than where their next glass of whiskey was coming from they might have wound up with something like this: mystic, wondering, yet grounded in this world. Sings Bauer on the opener: “The future is ours / Let’s leave it behind,” where the ‘it’ in question might be all that’s spiritual or the impending world he claims as his own. A MINUS
WALTER MARTIN – We’re All Young Together (Family Jukebox): Children’s album centered largely around animals. Sophisticated enough parents wouldn’t mind listening—might even genuinely enjoy it—but I don’t know about kids because, uh, I don’t know about kids, but I guess if the tot enjoys it you can guess they’ll one day be an unemployed, bourbon-addled Brooklynite. I could think of worse things. B PLUS (*)