CD Review of A Hundred Miles Off by The Walkmen

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A Hundred Miles Off
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Released: 2006
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Turbulent, yet tuneful, the Walkmen generally have a unique sound, but on “Louisiana,” the opener of their third album, A Hundred Miles Off, frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s raspy vocals sound like a tribute to Bob Dylan. As with Ike Reilly – another Dylan devotee – Leithauser makes it work. By throwing in a couple of sunny mariachi interludes on the track, it’s clear that the band is going for something upbeat. Compared to their first two efforts, A Hundred Miles Off is a happy Walkmen album, but it’s still a Walkmen album.

The group has a tendency of getting mired in its own noise at times, and Hundred Miles is no different. But songs like “Lost in Boston” – with its repeating guitar riff and infectious chorus – and “Emma, Get Me a Lemon,” which features outstanding drumming from Matt Barrick, highlight an album that’s more blissful than blusterous. Compared to Bows + Arrows, some of the melody is absent, mostly due to Paul Maroon’s decision to trade in his old piano for an organ. “All Hands and the Cook” is a perfect example – the piano appears, but only briefly, amongst Maroon’s haunting organ, making the track one of the few on the disc without a sunny disposition.

“Brandy Alexander” is a sweet, scaled-back song that represents one of the best moments on the back half. For the album’s closer, the group chose to cover Mazarin’s “Another One Goes By,” and they do a terrific job of slowing down the tempo and converting the song to a ballad while keeping the feel of the original’s dreamy ‘50s guitars. It’s a great way to end the album. Much like their first two efforts, there aren’t a ton of obvious hits on A Hundred Miles Off, just a bunch of good songs from a band with a blossoming sound.

~John Paulsen