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Bad luck brings good music

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August 12, 2008

Earlier this year, the Walkmen recorded three Leonard Cohen covers for the online music site Daytrotter. Plenty of indie-rock kids have tried a similar trick and a few have done it pretty well, but what frontman Hamilton Leithauser brought to the role was a perfect alignment of doggedness: Like Cohen, Leithauser plays a man perpetually stuck in the gutter, stupid and stubborn enough to stare up at the stars.

"Oh, bad luck, bad luck, you've come for me," he yowls over the gut-shot groan of "Long Time Ahead of Us," the 10th track off the Walkmen's brilliant fifth album. "Tomorrow we'll rise/ And the sky will be bright." In the meantime, yeah, there's a "long time ahead of us."

Much has been made of Leithauser's voice, which often feels choked, but on "You & Me," could one imagine a more perfect instrument? The best songs here, like the clattering "On the Water," are songs of last-resorts: the sound of a band holed up in some dark room, whistling, wailing, banging on a busted drum set, and waiting for morning. "I miss you, I miss you," Leithauser admits, finally, on the elegiac "Red Moon." "There's no one else/ I do, I do." [Matthew Shaer]

"You & Me" will be officially released Aug. 19 on Gigantic Music, but it's available now exclusively at www.amiestreet.com/artist/the-walkmen as part of the website's Download to Make a Difference campaign. For a limited time, the album costs $5, with all proceeds benefiting cancer research and treatment. The Walkmen play at the Middle East Downstairs on Sept. 18.

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