Release Date: Sep 14, 10
Of the bands I could’ve expected to hop onto the chillwave train, I can’t say that The Walkmen would’ve been the first example to pop into my head. Making their name on ferocious garage-indie songs like “The Rat” and “In The New Year,” you’d be pressed to imagine Paul Maroon’s jagged guitars transferring to summertime grooves. However, on Lisbon, the transition is for the most part pretty smooth. The warbling guitar sounds on “Woe Is Me” follow in continuity with the band’s old sound while conjuring something bouncier, sunnier.
One of the band’s trademarks has always been vocalist Hamilton Leithauser’s incredible range, and here he distills it into something impressive but a little less hazardous; on past albums, he sounded as though his vocal cords were going to shred from overexertion at virtually any second. By contrast, “Torch Song” sounds like something the Beach Boys would have worked in, down to the harmonized background vocals and the gently trembling guitars. Lisbon as a whole conjures images of the end of summer, and so the record comes out at a perfect time; if Teen Dream and Real Estate call to mind lazing one’s days away, Lisbon is for a drive along a large body of water as the sun sets.
Some of the mellower songs definitely work better than others. “While I Shovel The Snow” is a dreamy affair, Maroon’s guitar ringing like bells as Leithauser pensively sings of how “Well, today there’s clarity/And tonight I can see tomorrow.” By contrast, opener “Juveniles” is mellow to the point of listlessness, which is the line dreamy surf-pop walks, I suppose. “All My Great Designs” suffers a similar fate. On “Stranded,” the band implement a triumphant horn section, and it’s here they most sound like themselves; it’s the album’s best track, as it best merges the band’s almost diametrically opposed sounds with a slow, glorious build. “Victory,” too, showcases the aforementioned vocal strain and a pounding piano in the chorus.
Lisbon is a good, if not great, record, but don’t expect it to come without a touch of backlash from fans not acclimated to this very new sound.