There’s nothing better than hearing a band age gracefully while remaining true to self. New York’s The Walkmen, although always sounding a tad wise and nostalgic for their respective ages, have continued their maturation process with their Septmeber 2010 release Lisbon. Their distinctive clamor is again the firm centerpiece of this affair, with their always roomy, vintage festival of jangly resonance and autumnal glory in full effect.
On most of the band’s outings there is a distinct forlorn sensibility that hints at a down and out set of characters but pulls up short of being overtly dour. Lisbon also continues to incorporate an increasingly worldly vibe that was beginning to take hold on their previous effort You and Me and is very apparent with the recurring mariachi horns heard throughout this album. Though they have one foot in the indie/alternative world soundwise, they have always managed a traditional twang that is present in songs like the modern quasi Sinatra-ish “Stranded” and the reverb-coated “Blue As Your Blood” that itself carries a Sun Studio’s Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two style guitar bounce.
Taking the echo-y grandiosity a step further than ever before, the band sometimes crosses over into ethereal territory approaching the sonics of My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes. Lead vocalist Hamilton Leithauser coos from what sounds like the bottom of a canyon on the opening salvo of “Torch Song” which eventually transcends into a closing doo-wop style chant that makes the tonality of the song sound something like a hybrid of Roy Orbison meets The Velvet Underground. Although The Walkmen still have the veracity to crank out galloping tunes like the anthemic “Angela Surf City” and the weary-eyed yet celebratory skip and hop of “Juveniles,” tracks such as “Torch Song” and “Victory” show that they are equally capable of thriving on a raggedly beautiful sentimentality that manages to stay current without sacrificing its classic edge.