Hamilton Leithauser - The Loves of Your Life Music Album Reviews

The former Walkmen member wrote each of these songs about a specific person, forming an archive of memories that comes alive in his elevated songcraft and dynamic voice.

In a goofy teaser clip for his new album, Hamilton Leithauser seems to state the obvious: “Writing and recording music by yourself can be lonely.” This is only the former Walkman’s second solo record, following 2014’s Black Hours and a collaborative LP with Rostam. But The Loves of Your Life is far from a solitary work; it is filled with people—both those firmly planted in Leithauser’s world, and those who’ve wandered through by chance. Each of its 11 songs was written about a specific person, and while some names and details have changed, the album is a celebration of community and the relationships that make one possible. It’s an archive of memories that comes alive with the help of Leithauser’s elevated songcraft and dynamic voice.

Leithauser’s recording process likewise embraced community. Alongside pros like pianist Jon Batiste and pedal steel player Jonathan Gregg, you’ll find Leithauser’s wife Anna Stumpf, their daughters Georgiana and Frederika, and the girls’ former preschool teacher, Lacrisha Brown, all credited for backing vocals. Leithauser layers their voices expertly throughout the record, in melodies that breeze around the songs and occasionally build into a full-bodied choir. He plays tricks with his own vocals as well, burying muted harmonies and delayed echoes around the edges of the mix. On the brooding “Til Your Ship Comes In,” his voice is in full force, hitting a high Rod Stewart rasp in the chorus and warbling out like warped tape elsewhere.

The Loves of Your Life examines an assortment of relationships for which Leithauser conveys deep affection. He loves these characters and wants to understand them, even on “Here They Come,” about a friend hiding from reality in the darkness of the Union Square cinema, or “Isabella,” about a “wide-eyed” Manhattan party girl who dropped out of college long ago. The skyward melodies of “Isabella” mimic the muse: a hopeless romantic staving off adulthood with endless late nights. Leithauser doesn’t denounce Isabella, but attempts to comprehend her dreams, her loneliness. “I wanna be there with her,” he sings, “’til they all go riding home.” The coda grows and grows, Leithauser’s in-house choir lifting it up until it floats away.

On “Til Your Ship Comes In,” the sense of being surrounded by familiar faces feels like an intervention; anyone who’s dealt with a self-destructive friend or relative will recognize the theme. “You’re kidding me, right?/With that dot in your eye,” Leithauser growls, watching police lights flash in the street. The layers of vocal tracks have an encircling effect: The subject is locked in a room with people who care too much to let them out. “Everybody wants you in a different way,” Leithauser sings. A dozen voices strong, the refrain feels particularly indicting: “We call you by a different name.”

Leithauser’s knack for melody is stronger than ever, particularly on “Isabella” and the big, bittersweet “Wack Jack,” which chronicles an unresolved conflict that drove one party to walk out for good. Caleb Cressman sits in on pedal steel and Batiste lays down a nimble solo, but Leithauser does the rest: drums, bass, guitar, mandolin, synthesizers, Wurlitzer, and vocals. “‘Years from today, when your name is just a name/And my love is a couple candles, twinkling on your cake,’” Leithauser sings, quoting the lost friend’s parting words, “‘That burn won’t hurt you anymore/But I’ll still keep your picture lying in a drawer.’” It’s the kind of remark that ends fights instantly: calm, vicious, poignant.

The Loves of Your Life feels like a neighborhood that’s deeply familiar, yet so packed with life that new details emerge on each stroll. You’ll find rainbows streaking through oily puddles, lipstick-kissed cups, breeze-blown magazines, a glossy red Silverado. If you walk long enough, you’ll also get to know the people that live there. Leithauser would like you to meet them.


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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Hamilton Leithauser - The Loves of Your Life Music Album Reviews Hamilton Leithauser - The Loves of Your Life Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 Rating:

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