Reminisce Bar & Grill is the fourth solo album Walter Martin has recorded since his band the Walkmen split in 2013, and it's one that might throw fans of his two award winning kids' records for a loop. With frankness and poignancy, Martin, now a 43-year-old married man with two young children, squarely tackles the subject of adulthood – specifically, his own. Listeners will recognize the same affable narrator from Martin's previous work – particularly his other non-kids' album, 2016's Arts & Leisure – but here the subject matter has shifted dramatically. As Martin explains, "I wanted this album to be an entertaining discussion of marriage, fatherhood, work, fear and weakness."
While Martin approaches these subject matters with candor and sincerity, he clearly also enjoys mining them for humor. On a number of tracks Martin walks the listener through terrain he knows well – the life of a working musician. In the centerpiece song of the album, the sweeping rocker, "Ride Down The Avenue," Martin finds himself "thinking through a hard year" while driving through the night with his sleeping wife and children. Scenes from his past come in and out of focus as Martin wrestles with the present. The spacious, echo-drenched sound of Reminisce Bar & Grill rolls over a listener like waves, and Martin notes his inventive use of reverb as being a key part of the album's sonic foundation. "It's kind of magical and elusive, and it really adds to the nostalgic, romantic feel of these songs."
The album was recorded over a two-and-a-half year period at various studio in Brooklyn and at Richard Swift's National Freedom Studio in Cottage Grove Oregon. The songs were mixed by D. James Goodwin (Bob Weir, Craig Finn), Richard Swift (Shins, Foxygen) and Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses). A nimble multi-instrumentalist, Martin handled guitar, piano, organ, bass and percussion duties, but he also relied on the services of a coterie of crafty players and singers: Brian Kantor (Fruit Bats) on drums, Josh Kaufman (Craig Finn, Josh Ritter) on guitar and Jamie Krents (French Kicks) on bass. The soaring harmony vocals woven throughout the album are delivered by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah singer, Alec Ounsworth.