At its best, the Walkmen’s music captured the thrills and angst of being young. But never did it address the joys and confusions of being very young — say, a toddler. Amply filling that absence — with help from a cast of guests that includes Matt Berninger (The National), Karen O (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and several of his former bandmates — is We’re All Young Together, the preciously sweet and sweetly precious solo debut from ex-Walkmen bassist/organist Walter Martin.
Martin’s album is the first of several Walkmen solo efforts, and the most unexpected. The cover art, adorned with marching, watercolored animals and balloons, gives no misconception: this is child-friendly folk- and country-pop, with songs about animals, zoos, vacation getaways, and, er, the Beatles. (The chorus celebrates not drug trips or creative squabbling, but Ringo’s mop.) But Martin’s half-hungover vocal tone resembles a more casual and less ambitious Hamilton Leithauser, and he has a knack for the sort of sunny, winking indie-pop the Walkmen mostly steered clear of. The charm is substantial: on “Hey Sister”, his (real-life) sister joins him for a stirringly fun duet on family resemblances; on “We Like the Zoo (‘Cause We’re Animals Too)” he gets Berninger, of all people, to chime in about octopuses and platypuses. It’s a wryly colorful moment straddling the histories of the Walkmen and the National, two of New York’s most unabashedly grown-up-y bands. Sure, We’re All Young Together’s coy naïveté is a put-on, but it’s not too cloying a put-on for this 36-minute, 10-track set.