[sic] Magazine

The Walkmen – Lisbon

Goddammit, The Walkmen know how to write beautifully bruised songs. When ‘The Rat’ came flying out of the traps back in 2004, I thought The Walkmen were great, but I never imagined they would evolve into a band of this calibre. Lisbon is simply magnificent.

It’s a deceptively simple record, hence difficult to write about. On initial spins it sounds like there’s something missing – or, more precisely, it sounds like it’s stuck in the past, refusing to complicate things with technology or endless overdubs. There are distinct echoes of bygone genres in these stark arrangements: early rock’n’roll, jazz ballads, surf and post-punk. The guitar lines are minimal and glowing with a little echo and reverb; the bass sits back, lolling like an inflatable on a deserted summer pool; mariachi horns add a little colour here and there, lifting the songs to subtle new levels of depth and intricacy. And I’ve never before noticed quite how much Hamilton Leithauser sounds like a young Bob Dylan .

The Walkmen can pull off hook-filled numbers like ‘Angela Surf City’ and ‘Woe Is Me’ with panache, but they can also paint masterfully in more subdued hues. On each listen, new details surface, but not the kinds of details that are buried in the mix. More often than not these breathtaking details reside in Leithauser’s phrasing – the way he reaches with each breath, the way he enunciates certain phrases. Or, the way the strings rise in the background of ‘Blue As Your Blood’; the wash of guitars in ‘Follow The Leader’; the sparse atmospherics of ‘While I Shovel The Snow’ – all these details give me goosebumps every time.

Along with Spoon and The National , The Walkmen are producing some of the most elegant, sophisticated and downright brilliant rock music around right now. And with Lisbon they’ve produced one of the finest albums of the year, no question.