Review: Walk the Moon – What if Nothing

I feel that if anyone were to choose a word to describe Walk the Moon, it would be “infectious.” They’ve created an expertly executed ‘80s revival mixed with modern pop and electronica in a music culture that has incessantly tried to nail that combination. So far, I feel that Walk the Moon have succeeded. I walked into their latest offering, What If Nothing with the same expectations that were fulfilled with both their self-titled album (released in 2012) and the sophomore Talking is Hard (released in 2014).

You can buy What if Nothing on iTunes.

I’m generally not one to enjoy a lot of the pop music that is released to mainstream radio, but I can’t help but listen to Walk the Moon’s earlier two albums over and over. I was hoping that this album would be no different, but it fell a bit short. That’s not to say it’s not a good album, but it doesn’t hit me quite the same way as their previous releases have.

When I first heard the preview of the opener and first single, “One Foot”, I was a bit disappointed. They have a formula that’s worked so far for them, but I felt it was time for them to grow musically and lyrically. This album probably should’ve been called Talking is STILL Hard, because it feels like a sequel. Many of the tracks feel as though they were leftovers and fillers from that album.

Walk the Moon generally isn’t known for deep lyrics; they’re known more for the music behind the lyrics. If you’re musically-inclined rather than lyric-focused, you’ll enjoy What if Nothing a lot. The lyrics speak to a lot of confusion, as signaled by frontman Nicholas Petricca in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: “This record is very much about owning the ‘I don’t know what the hell is going on.’”

Like Petricca, I don’t know what’s going on either, but, unlike him, it’s concerning this album rather than the current events he referenced in that interview. A definite low point for me comes near the middle of the album. “Kamikaze” is especially weak, lyrically, while “Sound of Awakening” is just so strange that it lost me at the halfway point. The random autotune effect used in the latter track struck me as odd, because Petricca’s vocals are so strong and don’t need any kind of altering.

Regardless of my feelings on the album as a whole, there are a couple of tracks that stood out as gems. The first track I genuinely enjoyed was “All Night”. Lyrically, it’s a stronger track in the group of 13 and felt like the Walk the Moon I love. Another is “Can’t Sleep (Wolves)”, which, in the first line, seems to reference the death of Petricca’s father: “Hold on to the ones you love / But don’t squeeze too tight”. The songs that are good on this album are great tracks, but together they get lost in a strange shuffle of synth and inappropriately-placed autotune.

What Walk the Moon needs is a lyrical revamp. They’ve grasped the musical component. It’s time for them to really branch out and explore the other facets of the scene they’ve built for themselves. They might be able to take a couple of pointers from bands like Young the Giant, who established themselves and then grew out of that sound into something new and more mature. As listeners, we hope that our favorite bands will be able to stay relevant and grow as we grow.

What this album ends up being is a reflection on lost love, the fear of failure, and the uncertain times in which we find ourselves. I wish I could say that it hit those points perfectly and poignantly, but it falls flat. The songs end up sounding cheesy and hastily written, despite the excellent and experimental sonic composition. I wish I liked this album more. What I expect from Walk the Moon is a great spring or summer album, but What If Nothing is not much more than sad songs about break-ups and being left alone at the club.

3/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

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