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Album Review

by The Walkmen

Fat Possum Records

Review Date
10th December 2010
Reviewed by
Gareth Meade

For whatever reason, it’s never felt like The Walkmen have gotten the recognition they deserve; they’re underrated despite an ocean of praise. It’s certainly true when measured against their success. Lisbon is the group’s sixth album and is yet another excellent release by a band that’s had a string of them over their career. But it’s not going to be their High Violet or their Veckatimest, despite being almost as good as both. For whatever reason, The Walkmen are going to remain exactly where they are.

Part of the reason for this could be their strict determination to do things their way. Lisbon, for its place in The Walkmen canon, is almost stubbornly stripped back, to the point where the stark instrumentation makes it a near pure listening experience. Compare the up-tempo ‘Angela Surf City’ with the lament of ‘Torch Song’ and you’ll see that each song has its own direction, but each throws little more on the fire than the four instruments of its members.

But even when they’re being understated, not enough can be said about the strength of Hamilton Leithauser’s vocals. His performance on ‘Victory’ would shred the vocal chords of a lesser singer, but Leithauser remains vital, ebbing and flowing with the band around him. Only on ‘Stranded’ does the atypical flourish of a horn section match his range, and the two together give the song a grandeur that is unmatched anywhere else on the album.

Lisbon is, above all else, thoughtful and drifts rather than soars. The changes in pace on ‘Angela’ and ‘Woe is Me’ have a familiar freneticism to them, but without the teetering-on-the-brink-of-collapsing feeling of their most well-known song ‘The Rat’. But the restraint is the star of the show here as songs are given room to breathe and nothing feels rushed, despite the fact that the album was reportedly recorded in less than a week. Its warm echo it something you can ruminate within and feel closer to the band than you ever have before. Basically, it’s what we’ve come to expect from The Walkmen; it’s another outstanding achievement.


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