If you happen to know that Hamilton Leithauser is the lead singer for the perpetually underrated New York City band The Walkmen, you may also happen to know that he doesn’t usually sound like what you hear when “Here They Come” starts. Typically Leithauser presses against the upper range of his vocal register, with a scuffed-up sort of zeal that does battle with the band’s bashy atmospherics.
This starts as another thing entirely: we hear a growly baritone, accompanying a finger-picked guitar. This goes on for 35-some-odd seconds, at which point, if you listen carefully, something in the background lightens up—you can kind of hear a higher vocal harmony in the distance, and the elusive sound of maybe a melodica? Then, just after his voice turns growliest, on the lines “all my candy’s gone” (1:02), bang: Leithauser converts to his familiar upper register, the music acquires a ramshackle beat, and off we go into the epitome of a sing-along chorus. This is, I feel, impossible not to like, but maybe that’s just me.
The verse returns at 1:26, now swinging along in the song’s revised setting. Leithauser’s transformed voice, just this side of hoarse, is for me the source of the song’s deepest charms—despite the tale of woe recorded here, something about a friend who can’t cope with the messy realities of life, the music’s effervescence coaxes a smile. Maybe that’s the point.
From the album The Loves of Your Life, released last month. MP3 again via KEXP. Note that the Walkmen have been on hiatus since 2014 but have not officially broken up. Old-timers may remember that that the band have been featured twice on Fingertips, in 2004 and 2008.