Sound Check

Richa Agarwal

Nothing like a Hamilton winter puts you in the mood to snuggle up and listen to a band fronted by a gentleman named Hamilton. The Walkmen are a five-piece ensemble, consisting of musicians who grew up together in Washington D.C. and currently reside in New York City. Inspired by a strong buzz surrounding the group, I picked up Bows and Arrows (2004, Record Collection) over break, and as rumored, they are quite impressive. This is not a pop album. Not in the least. As a quick disclaimer, let me emphasize that the artists I generally review aren’t “popular.” Bows and Arrows is not immediately catchy and lacks the traits typically attributed to “pop” music. Yet, the boys from D.C. have appeared on the O.C. – err, contradiction perhaps? Nah, that Adam Brody has fine taste. With that out of the way, the vague genre of “indie rock” could be used to describe them. In actuality, they’re not indie – as far as labels go. Record Collection is under Warner Brothers, which is under one of the five major record labels, Warner Music Group. There’s a whole RIAA family tree to be found at Isn’t it cute how they try to be all sneaky like that? Walkmen’s first full-length Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone (2002) was released on Star Time records, which is a legit independent label, home to artists, such as the French Kicks as well.But that’s okay. Even though most artists screw themselves over by signing on to major labels, at least some good music comes out of such deals. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser hails from the “I don’t have a nice voice but I can sing dammit” school with predecessors such as Bob Dylan and Isaac Brock. This is not to say such artists don’t have nice voices. I mean, they’re nice to me – just maybe not to those American Idol judges. But we can all agree that that show offers nothing in the way of music knowledge, right? Right. As instruments can swing the range between discordant and harmonious, so can a vocalist. The Walkmen’s members have had a past with garage rock band types, and though that history is definitely apparent in their lo-fi sound, they’ve also moved away from it. Though they’ve got the essential guitar, bass, and drums, Paul Maroon adds piano to some tracks, and Walter Martin plays the organ and pandemonium. Eclectic is the way to go when trying to entertain a population that has grown up believing they all suffer from ADD.Hamilton Leithauser opens Bows and Arrows with a drawled out “What’s in it for me? What’s in it for me? I came here for a good time, and you’re telling me to leave. But you don’t have to say it again, ’cause I heard you the first time.” Hopefully, there will be no parting words that early on in the show when they come here – that’s right, Hamilton is coming to Hamilton! So, be prepared by knowing the best tracks off the album to bop your head to. Specifically a standout, “The Rat,” is an edgy song in which Matt Barrick’s drumming really shines. An angst-filled, yet melancholy song, Leithauser proclaims, “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor/You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number” and emphasizes his despair by asking, “Can’t you hear me?/I’m calling out your name/ Can’t you see me?/ I’m pounding on your door.” The real beauty lies in the way Leithauser utters each word, feeding off raw emotion – at least we’d like to think so. As the song progresses, he laments, “When I used to go out I’d know everyone I saw/Now I go out alone/If I go out at all.” Poor guy.Though “Little House of Savages” has garnered raves, Leithauser’s singing is a bit too monotone throughout the track. Maroon’s piano takes the spotlight in “Hang On, Siobhan,” a slow-paced ballad-esque track. The album fittingly closes with “Bows and Arrows.” In the same way one would finalize a break-up, he breaks up with the listener. “Goodbye to all your plans / You can listen to me now / Your head is bent out of shape / But your feet are on the ground / And all in all the ceiling’s coming down.” He insists “there’s nothing for you here.” Well, fine. In any case, this band rocks and you should be thanking the SCOPE gods – you know, that Student Committee on Providing Entertainment – for bringing them here, free of cost to you! The essentials: Saturday, February 5th at 8 p.m. in Donovan’s Pub. Did I mention the show is free?