The Walkmen: Lisbon
With each album, The Walkmen wring more and more out of less and less, stripping songs to a simple pounding beat, washes of trebly organ, short and shimmery guitar riffs, and Hamilton Leithauser’s braying voice. (And sometimes they leave one or more of those elements out, just for the challenge of it.) Yet The Walkmen’s sixth album, Lisbon, is the band’s most tuneful, varied, and expressive, though it’s as minimalist as ever. After the very good but doggedly mellow You & Me, Lisbon comes on more urgent and impassioned, starting with the bouncy “Juveniles,” on which Leithauser declares, “You’re one of us or one of them,” and continuing through 10 more songs that draw lines between rich and poor, winners and losers, leaders and followers. Informed in equal measure by reverb-drenched Sun Records singles, New Orleans brass, surf songs, and the Old World dignity of Portugal, Lisbon is nothing if not deliberate, as The Walkmen grab onto a musical or lyrical idea and bat it about, unwilling to let it escape. Their tenacity leads to evocative songs like “Blue As Your Blood,” in which Leithauser’s voice floats above a jumped-up rhythm, as though skirting the fray; “Victory,” which clicks up slowly like a rollercoaster and then rushes downward over the chorus; and “While I Shovel The Snow,” which is as still as a winter morning. Lisbon is like a treatise on the untapped power of the have-nots, delivered by the kind of people who could turn a raw potato, a cup of water, and a pinch of salt into a five-star dish.