The Walkmen are standing at the precipice of the great cultural divide. Or at least they would be if they existed 20 years ago. That was a time when music and identity were intertwined in a discrete set of high school cliques: punks, hippies, goths, ravers, etc. The Walkmen would have been identified as preppies purely on a basis of fashion--they sometimes wear suits--whether they liked it or not. Since those days, the whole system of subcultures has, thankfully, balkanized into a million different subcategories and rendered itself meaningless.
The music of the Walkmen is a good example of why that categorization was eternally flawed. The preppie tag would have doomed them to being identified with the characteristics of arrogant privilege, when in reality, their music drips with a humanity and emotion that has no relevance to social status. They are like young, American Pogues, continually singing ballads to whomever will listen at a New Year's party long after everyone's left. Lisbon, their sixth album, is more of their finest: beautiful, drunken melodies interspersed with occasional speed and fury. They build a constant crescendo, and eventually the whole album lives at that crescendo. It's a world where everything can't help but be perfect, and Frank Sinatra still croons to himself in the wee, small hours of the morning.
"Stranded" is a quintessential example, full of wistful joy. It slowly alternates between mired loss and alienation, then swings into a triumphant declaration to the backing of Eastern European-style brass.
On iTunes: The Walkmen / "Stranded"