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The Walkmen: Tiny Desk Concert

The Walkmen's wiry, weary, seething rock 'n' roll has mellowed in recent years, as vein-bulging hollers have given way to a richer, more gently paced and layered sound. But it's still not exactly the stuff of campfire crooning: We'd spent the days leading up to this Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices wondering how on earth The Walkmen would downsize these songs behind Bob Boilen's desk. For one thing, Hamilton Leithauser sings with such intensity that it'd be hard to dial down the instrumentation too much — you'd never hear it.

Leithauser may wield an acoustic guitar in these three songs, but this is no awkward attempt to shoehorn booming rock anthems into meek arrangements that don't suit them. From the opening notes of "Heaven," the magnificently stirring title track of The Walkmen's recent seventh album, it became clear that these guys were making the Tiny Desk accommodate their sound rather than the other way around. Leithauser's voice soared far down the hallways at various points in all three of these songs from Heaven — "Remember, rememmmmmmmber, all we fight for!" "It's been soooooooooooooo long!" "Love is luuuuuuuuuuuuuck!" — lending them grit and grace, not to mention hair-raising intensity that feels a little jarring coming from a bunch of guys in crisp button-up shirts.

Set List:

  • "Heaven"
  • "We Can't Be Beat"
  • "Love Is Luck"
  • Credits:

    Producer and Editor: Bob Boilen; Videographers: Becky Lettenberger, Nick Michael and Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Blake Lipthratt/NPR

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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    Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)