Music Reviews
The Loves of Your Life

Hamilton Leithauser The Loves of Your Life

(Glassnote Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Like death and taxes, the comedown album is an inevitability that artists have to deal with. When a good and/or acclaimed group puts out an album that is decidedly written into that artist’s history, the one that comes afterward is fine but nowhere close. In some cases, this is a sophomore slump. But with Hamilton Leithauser, that seems like an odd way to frame it. As the frontman of The Walkmen, one of the great indie rock groups of the 2000s, Leithauser made a series of quality albums. His fourth solo work, The Loves of Your Life, feels more like a shrug than a change. Coming down from 2016’s I Had a Dream That You Were Mine and a wonderful collaboration with ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam, a solid project can’t quite compare.

Maybe it’s not fair to pin a decent album against its predecessor, but there’s no killer moment here like 2016’s A 1000 Times or Alexandra from his debut Black Hours. The best Leithauser can offer up now is a handful of really good tunes that can’t sustain the length of an album. Isabella comes closest, offering up a classic New York tale with an anthemic climax over dusty acoustic guitars, flavorless electric touches, and sandy drums. While it takes a bit to get there, the giant hook of “they all come riding home” is something that’ll stay on repeat for many listeners. The bitter Wack Jack also contains some electricity in its veins with lush harmonies and airy guitar work, but the excitement isn’t found anywhere else. Thankfully, there’s always Leithauser’s wonderful voice underscoring the entire album—even when the instrumentation and production aren’t entirely there.

Thankfully, Leithauser’s gift as a storyteller still holds strong on this project. The Loves of Your Life was designed with each song intentionally being about a specific person, which makes even the worst songs interesting tales. With Here They Come’s elliptical imagery and monster chorus, the lyrics fit the wonderful Randy Newman-esque plunky piano and huge production. On Til Your Ship Comes In, the hopeful and caring lines about an astray friend hold together a song that’s falling apart at the seams. Cross-Sound Ferry fells similar in terms of thematic content in how it reckons with nostalgia, but the song lacks a flow, lurching from irritating and consuming vocals to quiet reflection within seconds. Still, something lingers with the closing tune The Old King. Under floating horns and lopsided pianos, Leithauser pens one of his most honest lines ever, singing “I wish I’d only had the balls to bury the hatchet and forgive 'em all.” It’s just a line, but it’s a reminder of the hints of greatness strewn across a fine effort.