This past November, The Walkmen announced that they were going on "extreme hiatus." On June 3rd, lead vocalist and guitarist Hamilton Leithauser, will be the first member to release solo material when Black Hours comes out via Ribbon Music. Listen to it above.
Black Hours seems an apt title for this album, as many of the songs' themes represent different parts of the night, from the excitement and energy of the very beginning, to the weariness and exhaustion of the very end.
Counter to convention, Leithauser begins the album with a song akin to the end of a long night. "5 AM" is a slow, dreary song in which he sounds exhausted. Of course, that also is one of his biggest strengths, as he made a career with that sound while with The Walkmen. The song starts with quiet, subtle piano and organ, and slowly transitions into beautifully soft strings. Leithauser sings with the passion of a man whose voice is all he has left as he asks, "Do you ever wonder why I sing these love songs, when I have no love at all?" It's a strong lead off to the album that sets the overall tone for the record.
The next three songs on the record, "The Silent Orchestra," "Alexandra," and "11 O'Clock Friday Night," pick up the pace. These songs all seem like they take place earlier in the evening, when Leithauser still has energy, and the vocals and instrumentals prove it. "The Silent Orchestra" is a contrast to the slow-burning "5 AM," here the strings bounce along with the much more upbeat piano and percussion, and Leithauser's vocals match that tempo. "Alexandra" is a folk-rock ballad co-written by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, and it represents the prime of the night. There's a ton of excitement and energy to the song and it's the highlight of the album.
The second half of the album shows Leithauser's willingness to experiment with styles and it keeps the record varied and interesting. "I Retired" showcases some bluesy instrumentation, even leading into doo-wop backing vocals midway through. The whole album does an excellent job creating an atmosphere that the listener can get lost in, and Leithauser's lyrics tell a realistic and relatable story of transitioning into a new chapter in your life.