Since their 2002 debut “Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone,” New York/Philadelphia based The Walkmen have discreetly evolved, with each recording becoming more subtle and simplistic, stripping their music down to the bare essentials. 2008’s noteworthy You & Me sounds eons away since their inception as a band, yet it is merely a transitional record from its predecessor, A Hundred Miles Off. Ergo, after hearing Lisbon, the band’s sixth LP in eight years, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it is the most straightforward record the ensemble has ever come out with. The Walkmen have always been keen on using vintage instruments like grand pianos and various sorts of brass; Lisbon is no exception.
Named after the capital of Portugal, which the band visited twice whilst writing the lyrics for the album, Lisbon is heavily influenced by classical music: “Torch Song” an oldies waltz, “While I Shovel The Snow,” a wistful ballad, “Woe Is Me,” and “Angela Surf City” venerable rock n roll ditties. “Stranded,” the first single off the album, is a trumpet heavy ballad, inspired by timeless New Orleans jazz from the 1950s. It shows. ‘Tis a bold move to release a song like “Stranded” as a first single, particularly for a band who gained mainstream affection with noisy pop rock anthems “The Rat” and “Little House of Savages.” But The Walkmen could not be swayed to release another pop rock record, especially as a followup to You & Me; their determination to craft delicate, thoughtful hymns has come to fruition on Lisbon, and the result is exhilarating.
Unlike its darker, gloomier predecessor, Lisbon is uplifting; urging you to go out there and experience the world. On “Juveniles” frontman Hamilton Leithauser sings “I am a good man/by any count/And I see better things to come;” on heartbreaker “Blue As Your Blood,” he remains positive: “The Lord came down and said to me/Throw off your worries and be at peace.” Though the group has thoroughly transformed over the last few years, The Walkmen continue to commemorate the usage of slap-back guitars, a sound that has become more eminent in their music; apparent throughout Lisbon in its entirety. A record without hidden meanings, Lisbon is not intended to make you think twice and understand the perpetual notion of its existence; no, Lisbon is a record solely committed to music, nothing more and nothing less.
75 — [Rating Scale]