Lisbon, the new album from The Walkmen is a minimalist affair. Recorded in only 5 days at their recently relocated Marcata Studios, the new album shows the band keeping it soulful on some occasions, slow on others, country on a few, and downright simple on all.
The album can be divided into two categories. Half of the songs are quick shuffles, featuring quick echoing guitar, heavy use of the crash symbol and the wailing vocal of lead singer Hamilton Leithauser. The other half consists of slow, dirge-like ballads. They never feature any instrumental complexity and often leave something to be desired. Some of the songs, however, are a welcomed mix of the two. "Angela Surf City" and "Victory" both start off very slow and simple but build up to emanating enough energy to make the most senile of old bastards smile and want to dance around. "Angela Surf City" is an energetic shuffle manages to rock harder than you ever thought a band could while skipping on distortion for the guitars or screaming in the vocals.
The albums highlight is the catchy "Woe is Me." The songs surf guitar and triumphant chorus will help you forgive Leithauser for his practically incomprehensible verses. The inherently sad chorus line that gives the song its name is almost forgotten as it is joyfully belted over loud, clanging electric guitar.
The other side of Lisbon are the slow ballads, dominating almost every other song on the album. Following that is the slow category comes "All My Great Designs," "Torch Song," and the title track, "Lisbon." In these, the band dances the very thin line between reaching a comfortable medium of simplicity and losing the listener's attention. The slow waltzes are justified by the lyrics of "While I Shovel the Snow." The lounge act style verses are complimented by the sad yet hopeful chorus where Leithauser sings "Half of my life I've been watching/ Half of my life I've been waking up/ Birds in the sky could warn me/ There's no life like the slow life." And just like that, almost all of the sluggish, melancholy tracks are forgiven and at the same time understood. The Walkmen are almost preaching their new philosophy through song. Not all of their songs need to make the old guys dance around. According to them, it might be best to take things slow, keep it simple and just relax.
Lisbon shows The Walkmen taking a new turn with their music. Though is can be enjoyable to rock out, they seam to be much more contempt with relaxing in a simplistic manner every once in a while. This is a good concept, but I don't know how long it will hold mine, or other's attention. -brendan mehan
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MP3: "Angela Surf City"
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