Walk right in, walk right out

The Walkmen make lovely, pleasant music for the wintertime.

Keri Carlson

The Walkmen come across as a really cool band. They live in New York. They are pretty attractive in that tall, skinny, nicely dressed, Strokes-kind-of- way. Three of the members come from Jonathan Fire*eater, a brilliant band from the mid-1990s, which was of course, never fully appreciated. The Walkmen were featured in a trendy Saturn car commercial, and their last album, “Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone,” made critics gush and declare the group the buzz band of 2002.

But that’s the funny thing about coolness. The people who you think are the embodiment of hip usually do not think of themselves that way.

On the band’s latest album “Bows and Arrows,” there are references to subways, sleeping on floors and bars emptying at 4 a.m., but the Walkmen never give any indication that they hold typical New York rock band attitudes. The songs on “Bows and Arrows” vary between delicate and gorgeous to furious and frantic. “The Rat” particularly jumps out as frenzied guitars topple over one another but with a crisp sound so each note clearly resonates. Hamilton Leithauser howls an unsteady and disturbing cry of, “Can’t you see me? I’m pounding on your door.” He then admits, “When I used to go out I’d know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone, if I go out at all.”

“Bows and Arrows” seems especially made for the winter, with song titles such as “No Christmas While I’m Talking,” “The North Pole” and “New Year’s Eve.” Beyond the titles, each song on the album is connected through lush pianos and jangled guitars reminiscent of Christmas bells and chimes. It places the album on snowy sidewalks amid dizzying holiday lights. The winter atmosphere of the album adds to its secluded and uncertain feel. “Bows and Arrows” is a wave of layered sound continuously stacked up or stripped down.

While the album never sticks to an obvious storyline, several songs find Leithauser dwelling on awkward moments in which someone must leave, whether it’s a one night stand or just an unclear relationship. At the end, all is left with a shake of the hand as the title track closes the album. But Leithauser asserts he would do it again and assures, “Someday girl we’ll all get along.”

The Walkmen expose too much for the band to still be considered cool. But they become much more special than the bands we look at for the right clothes to wear, beer to drink or club to hang out at. “Bows and Arrows” contains lovely chimes and jangly guitars that instantly transport you to a winter wonderland.