Album Review: Hamilton Leithauser Becomes the Grand Narrator in ‘the Loves of Your Life’

Hamilton Leithauser’s fourth solo album The Loves of Your Life is the true meaning of independent music. The multi-instrumental musician and former Walkmen singer produced the release at his home studio The Struggle Hut and, with assistance from his wife, kids, and even their pre-school teachers, delivered 11 incomparable stories inspired by “individual real people”. The album is an old fashion, DIY production filled with texture and unique sonic synergies offering an inside look into the minds of strangers who feel all too familiar.

‘The Garbage Men’ starts with a retro waltz that evolves, almost as if in slow motion, through the delicately contemporary drum beat. The song is full of auditory surprises, especially during the moments when the melody gets unchained by the musician’s vocal tension. Leithauser has an unexplainable talent for instrumental arrangements, with complex structures sounding anything but crowded. ‘Here They Come’, the first song shared in anticipation of the release, seems to be very Leonard Cohenesque until the chorus. Sonic guitar waves flood the low-registrar folklore in a song about a friend who is hiding from his problems in a dimly lit cinema. The real cherry on top is in the end when you can practically hear the projector turn off and “all the light’s, one by one, here they come”.

The songs may have been inspired by the musician’s personal experience, but the situations the individuals are in become almost too pertinent with the listener being bound to find themselves in one of the compositions. ‘Cross-Sound Ferry (Walk-On Ticket)’, the track that practically started the album, is about a man who seems very put together but has a mind that is equivalent to the atomic bomb. Throughout the album, there is this simple need to know more, just like with ‘Don’t Check the Score’, the composition that sends ripples through the still water. What is potentially the most intriguing track on the album is dedicated to the “gamblers, troubled souls and long-lost friends”.

Even with the album’s auditory perception being anything other than content ‘Til Your Ship Comes in’ manages to take that musical drive to a whole new level. With a hint of Urge Overkill, there is a mixture of tonal range between the instruments and the voices, seizing the listener’s full attention. While the drums are heard at every stage of the song, none of the instruments overpower the other and Paul Maroon is vividly recognized taking charge of the guitar. “We call you by a different name” emerges in almost serene musical stillness containing the usually loud instruments as the observational lens closes in on the protagonist of the story. This internal state, transmitted through music, is something Leithauser has become a master of and does so in an incredibly elegant fashion not giving too much away. ‘The Stars of Tomorrow’ is the classic ‘50s sound of almost absurd yet comforting optimism, for the “stars of tomorrow are brighter every night”, the visual that hits the apex with the back vocals.

This release is so densely packed with character that it doesn’t matter if you listen to just one song or the whole album in a sitting, you’re bound to get moved. ‘Wack Jack’ clouds the vision for the coming 3 minutes with the mist of the fast drum beat, lightweight guitar and satin-like piano by Jon Batiste. There are no fillers, no gaps lefts, each song is mixed practically to perfection. As singular as Hamilton Leithauser’s style is, the intro to ‘Stars & Rats’ could very much be on one of The Walkmen tracks, only the beginning that is. As he sings “I was told you had a choice, and your blood was burning again” the slow, lullaby-like rhythm concurs with the voices and instruments. The song, just like its character, hits the spot in an unprecedented manner.

The closing track of the album, ‘The Old King’, is an angelic piano ballad accompanied by the incredibly adorable child choir. This is the first song Leithauser wrote about someone he knows and the one that wrapped up his 4-year journey that is now known as The Loves of Your Life. Truth be told, this is one of the rare albums where no words will do it justice, as Leithauser, being the mundane god that he is, created uncommonly potent and empathetic stories. The Loves of Your Life is a beautifully understandable experience that leaves you wanting to know more.


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