It’s been four years since we last heard from the former frontman of indie luminaries, The Walkmen. The radio-friendly sounds of 2016’s I Had A Dream That You Were Mine represented a minor hit for Leithauser and collaborator Rostam – with lead single A 1000 Times being featured on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a major ad campaign or two, and, at time of writing, amassing just under 38 million streams on Spotify. The album was critically and commercially lauded, perhaps explaining his several year absence: Leithauser seems to have taken pause in the grips of a delayed case – given this is his third solo album – of second album syndrome.
The Loves Of Your Life, a collection of eleven character sketches, takes its inspiration from stories and remembrances from the friends and strangers who have entered and exited Leithauser’s life. The majority of the material here is a result of solo sessions in Leithauser’s home studio, recorded in his downtime during the making of I Had A Dream That You Were Mine. The final product is a damn near faultless affirmation of Leithauser’s well-honed talents.
On album opener The Garbage Man, the repeated refrain of “‘Til the garbage men go by” and the accompanying organesque keys gives the song the melancholic but subtly hopeful timbre of a gospel song. Leithauser’s voice has never sounded better than it does here, as he positively sermonises each chorus with an infectious vigour. The folk-tinged Isabella follows, a playful indictment of an all-too-familiar, in the art world especially, caricature of a young person whose rent is paid for by their parents and who are prevented from fully maturing as a result. “She did a year in a college round here / But she never left, and she never will”, Leithauser sings; the track is biting, sardonic and fun, all in equal measures.
For all its intimacy, the album retains a grand scope. This is a credit to Leithauser’s songwriting and musicality. These portraits feel so familiar: a man who is perpetually running from his problems; the lonely man striking up stilted conversations with strangers at the bar; an old friendship, one which you can’t quite recall why it ended. These are set to grand, room-filling harmonies which perfectly complement Leithauser’s impressive vocal range. These vignettes are comforting, funny and compassionate – hell, they’re goddamn life-affirming in all honesty.
The album, as a whole, holds together incredibly well and, if listened from start to finish, has a transportive power. After kicking the album into life with The Garbage Man, Leithauser meanders through Dylanesque folk harmonies, joyous horns, seedy guitar lines, and jazzy keys. The portraits are disparate but they clearly exist in the same universe. Think of it as an antidote to isolation: lose yourself to it and, if only for 45 minutes, surrender this world to Leithauser’s. You’ll be glad you did.