This sophomore studio album may have been seuccessful, but how does it stand as an album?
“Walk the Moon” is an interesting band. This Cincinnati based quartet have brought an amazing flare to modern music, mixing modern production with stylistic choices and songwriting from 80’s and 90’s rock. The band are not unknown to popularity as their songs Anna Sun and Tightrope having relative success on the U.S. Alt charts despite not charting on the Billboard Top 100. Their self titled album was good, pushing out some very cheesy but wonderfully put together songs. With their sophomore album*, will “Walk the Moon” find similar quality and success?
*Technically their third album, but their first album I Want, I Want doesn’t necessarily count in the same way Kendrick Lamar’s Section 80 album doesn’t count. I Want, I Want is actually even more obscure than Section 80.
The answer to that question should be obvious considering 2015 has already came and went (as well as the tagline of this post). Talking Is Hard was a huge success, with their hit single Shut Up and Dance peaking at no. 4 on the Billboard Charts but was played as much as any no. 1 hit. This success is not random, however. Talking Is Hard brings an unbridled energy to the band’s music, trading the multitude of guitars from their self-titled album for a style of rock drowning in personality-filled synth. This leads to their music sounding much more clean and controlled.
One theme throughout the album is the aforementioned energy. Almost every song on the song is a high tempo blast to get through, the upbeat synth weaving perfectly along with great percussion and Nicholas Petricca’s electric voice. Songs like Portugal and Shut Up and Dance make perfect use of these aforementioned traits, making great, uplifting songs that are great to dance to or to simply jam out to by yourself. The lyrics have admittedly cheesy but still great and clever lyrics about relationships, with Petricca saying things like “I know everyone you know, you know everyone I know, our Venn Diagram’s one circle.” (Portugal) The songs are more than just mindless dance songs about love, though. Some songs are rife with social commentary, like “Different Colors” which tackles teen-like rebellion in a genuine way or “Up 2 You” which covers a lot of topics in a vague way. Unfortunately for the songs with deeper lyrical content tend to be overshadowed by the heavy beats and synths of the album.
Thankfully the album shows some musical flexibility. The albums closing song Aquaman is a straight up ballad many senses, and it does wonders for the album. It is a great, relatively quiet peace full of calming guitars and raindrop synths, both of which wind down the non-stop energy of the album. There are also other quiet moments throughout the album, such as the intro to Down in the Dumps or the bridge of Work This Body, but none are quite as beautiful as Aquaman.
Track by Track:
- Down in the Dumps: 6.5/10
This is the introduction to the album and arguably the second most known, peaking at no. 7 on the U.S. Alt charts and being featured in many Pepsi commercials. This song is a weird way to open the album, particularly due to the fact that this song is rather bland. The synth that defines the album is more subtle in this song, which works as a detriment to the song. It’s lyrics, while less generic in terms of topic matter, are much less clever than the rest of the album. Despite all the negatives, this song still has a great structure and wonderful beat, making it a passable song in most regards.
- Sidekick: 8/10
Here is where we start kicking in the album proper. This song is unbelievably unique in both tone and structure. The melody of the verses are simplistic with a quick rhythm, using only two notes per chord and using an upbeat eighth note pattern. The lyrics in this song are unbelievably cheesy, but it works in the song’s favor since every other aspect of the song shows great restraint. Somehow Petricca gets the words “I often fail to see the things that I need are right here by my side” to sound completely genuine and full of charisma. The song’s chorus is also barely even a chorus due to the fact it has more the feel of two separate bridges playing back to back. The song is so energetic and fun, and the only real downside is the fact that the breakdown is somewhat grating, with the synth being used sounding honestly pretty bad. The breakdown doesn’t last too long in this 3 minute song thankfully and only somewhat detracts from the song.
- Shut Up And Dance: 8.5/10
The big hit. The one every one knows and probably hates due to overplay. If overplay doesn’t bother you, than you probably love this song. It’s upbeat, has the second best breakdown on the album, and the opening guitar riff is iconic and absolutely wonderful. The aforementioned breakdown in the song is great, with a synth solo that truly calls back to rock of the 80’s and 90’s. The only real issue with the song is that it is almost too cheesy, which unlike Sidekick doesn’t work great as the song shows nearly no restraint. No singer alive can pull off a line like “Deep in her eyes I think I see the future.” Also, the lyrics don’t always link together well. The first verse exemplifies this, with lines like “Oh we were victims of the night/The chemical, physical kryptonite” not working well together. Still, the fantastic vocal performance and phenomenal instrumental makes up for the sub par lyrics in spades.
- Up 2 You: 6.5/10
Unsure how to feel about this song for the most part. It tries hard to be the hardest rock song on the album, but is mostly grating. With dissonant synth chords and snare drum rim clicks in the beginning, it’s obvious the song wants to sound dramatic. The song proper soon kicks in with a drowning guitar and booming percussion, and this works for the most part. While this song has great lyrics, it also contains relatively poor vocals, with Petricca shouting at the top of his lungs every time the chorus ends.
- Avalanche: 9/10
An upbeat, restrained piece that happens to not be very synth driven. The first verse verse is the simple rock garage band quadfecta: Drums, Guitar, Bass, and Voice. The song never sounds empty despite this. When the synth kicks in during the chorus backing up Petricca’s upper register, the song truly begins to gain it’s magic. It has somewhat cheesy lyrics, but that’s only expected at this point in the album. The song is warm, subtle, and shows how restraint can benefit a song.
- Portugal: 10/10
This song is straight up beautiful. It’s arguably the most synth driven song on the album, and the synth’s used match the song perfectly. The introduction is a wonderful synth that is able to stand on it’s own. This synth line that does not try to imitate any particular instrument is carried throughout the song, and it is such a simple but well constructed riff that it is a pleasure to hear throughout the song. The riff is backed up by some simple percussion as Petricca starts singing arguably the best lyrics on the album. The song also follows a unique structure, having basically two separate choruses which are both so core to the song it would be wrong to call either of them bridges. Also, remember when I mentioned that Shut Up and Dance only had the second best breakdown on he album? This song has the best. It’s simple but packs an emotional punch. This song sows restraint and class while maintaining energy. making it a heartwarming masterpiece of a song.
- Down in the Dumps: 8/10
Arguably the most interesting song on the album. Starts out a bit awkwardly in a slow synth ballad section, but soon goes into pure mid 80’s poprock. It has a fun energetic beat which provides the best song to “rock out” to on the album. The only issue is that the song feels almost empty at points, like the synth solo towards the beginning of the song and the most boring breakdown on the album. Still, the song brings a great tonal shift to the album and remains one of the better songs on the album.
- Work This Body: 7.5/10
The workout song of the album that should have been in every Biggest Loser commercial ever. It’s almost sickeningly upbeat. Carried by a quarter note percussion beat and a punchy grand piano, this song is laced with lyrics about the value of hard work. There’s occasionally even a chorus of men singing the word “work” repeatedly. The song gets weird at points, as the song slows down and goes into Petricca singing about an existential crisis in French. Overall this song just oozes upbeat workout music, so much so it’s not necessarily positive.
- Spend Your $$$: 4/10
Easily the worst song on the album and arguably the worst Walk the Moon song period. The song opens with a nasally voice saying “can you imagine” and is an almost pointless way to open the song. What follows is even worse: the verses are only synth bass and cowbell. Not only is it devoid of any musical complexity, it also sounds bad, something that can’t be said for most of the album. The lyrics are also some of Petricca’s worst work, the chorus consisting of the lines “What do you spend your money on/I hope it’s something of value” and “Are you the driver or is someone driving you.” Petricca also does a bit of screaming in this song similar to how he did in Up 2 You, but there is thankfully less of it here. What keeps this song from being god awful is honestly the bridge and the ending. Both are full of great instrumentals uncharacteristic to the rest of the song with the lead guitar entering the song and blowing everything else out of the water along with a now tolerable bassline.
- We Are The Kids: 6.5/10
Just a painfully boring song. It’s technically good and has no real flaws, but is the one I find my self skipping the most (even more than Spend Your $$$). Generic guitar, uninspired percussion, synth existing only in chords. The only interesting aspect of the song is the bridge, which at least has a slight groove to it.
- Come Under The Covers: 7.5/10
Here’s where the album begins to wind down. This song is a very thinly veiled song about passionate sex with Petricca repeating how he wants to “leave you (his lover) satisfied.” This song suffers similar issues as We Are The Kids, but with an alleviated effect due to the fact that this is a tonal shifting song on the album. It’s light but generic, but overall a solid song.
- Aquaman: 9.5/10
Almost perfect. So close to being a perfect way to close the album. It has lyrics just as good as Portugal, using diving and water as a metaphor for relationships. Unlike the rest of the album, these lyrics aren’t cheesy (except for “when you think you’re all adult swim”). The lyrics are genuine and beautiful, matching tone with a beautiful array of synths ranging from raindrop to chord-based. Petricca also has a phenomenal performance using his upper register greatly. The one thing that keeps the song form being a 10/10 is the fact that it feels very busy at points which makes it hard to appreciate fully.