The longtime vocalist and frontman of New York-based veteran indie rockers The Walkmen released his debut solo album Black Hours this past June. The Walkmen decided to call it quits (or go on an extended hiatus), depending on what you read. Black Hours sounds like Leithauser was readying contributions to the sequel to 2012’s Heaven, one of our favorites of that year. Let’s face it, it’s Leithauser’s voice that made The Walkmen so damn good. He just might be the most gifted vocalist in indie rock. And that’s what’s on display here. Hamilton rips through rock tracks, piano ballads, and folk pieces, transcending genre and exploring styles while stretching the range of his vocals. All the while, the cohesion of the record never suffers.
There’s no filler throughout the album’s nearly 43-minute running time. Standout track “The Silent Orchestra” features Leithauser’s signature crooning over his plucked guitar, standup bass, violins, and xylophone. The track balances mood and melody to perfection. “Self Pity” is the most demanding track vocally on the record, as Leithauser works through more octaves than he’s known for in The Walkmen. And “I Don’t Need Anyone” would have fit nicely on Heaven, his previous outing with that band. I’ve been a fan of The Walkmen for the better part of a decade. For me, Black Hours surprisingly surpasses that potent discography and is on the short list for our favorite album of 2014.