I came up with an idea a few months ago that I put to the test recently. A couple of weeks ago I shut off the lights, eliminated all distractions, closed my eyes, and played Walk the Moon’s Talking is Hard for the first time, front to back. My hope was that I could connect completely with the music pouring from the speakers and produce completely candid thoughts about the songs. Much like a movie in a theater, music deserves to be played directly to the viewer. It’s tough to do that these days. You’re listening… but are you really?
Walk the Moon is a four piece band out of Cincinnati and they’ve been churning out delicious alt-pop songs since ’08. They had me hooked with “Anna Sun” two years ago from their self-titled, which delivered an incredibly solid line-up of tracks. I don’t know what happened in the past two years, because Talking is Hard is an improvement on Walk the Moon in every way.
First single “Shut Up and Dance” had me scouring the internet for a stream after hearing it live a few months ago. The song isn’t a cookie cutter chorus rigged to a cheap set of verses; this song is fantastic. Kevin Ray’s buzzing bass and Nick Petricca’s vocals lead right into a stellar chorus. It’s not even the melody that sells it; it’s all in the chord progression which you don’t see very often. Eli Maiman’s riff is icing on the cake, especially during the bridge.
There are many tracks here that blow the best songs from Walk the Moon out of the water. Fans won’t be at the live shows hoping for the old stuff. “Avalanche” hosts one of the strongest choruses that I’ve heard all year: “You got a look in your eyes (your eyes), I knew you in a past life, one glance and the avalanche drops, one look and my heartbeat stops.” Nicholas Petricca is such an impressive vocalist; he completely nails every single note on this record, “Avalanche” being a prime example.
”Portugal,” a synth-driven, slower song, burns the energy given off from “Avalanche.” It acts as an intermission of sorts that prepares for the second half of the album. Petricca explained its meaning during a Spotify commentary: “For me this song is a reminder… there are people that I really, really love who are gone. It’s my reminder that they are still close, and still part of me and part of my life. So it’s a sad song, but it’s a happy song too.”
The variety on Talking is Hard is massive. “Work this Body” is a track from the Bleachers / Fun / Steel Train universe that found its way to Walk the Moon’s hands. It’s fast, bouncy, and will probably end up in a Biggest Loser or Planet Fitness commercial. Drummer Sean Waugaman is a madman utilizing fifteen different percussion instruments while Maiman channels his inner Jack Antonoff during the solo, and Petricca even busts out some French for a verse.
In a recent Fuse interview, Petricca mentions, “We were really inspired by the dorky, maybe kooky artists of the ’80s. There was a time where the weird and the goofy was really celebrated, especially in the videos and the music…” The album as a whole delves into the ’80s sound quite a bit, with “We Are the Kids” being a prime example. Petricca mentions inspiration from Michael Jackson and Tears For Fears during his commentary for this song.
With all of the strengths and positive things that I’ve mentioned so far, penultimate track “Come Under the Covers” crushes all of them, in the best way possible. Maiman’s guitar work is absolutely transfixing with Ray shining as well on the bass. Petricca rises to the occasion once again during the song’s closing moments: “Sometimes / it’s like you grew up down the street / it’s such a mystery / the way you know me / the way you know me.”
Walk the Moon could have ended it there. This would still be an exceptional album if “Come Under the Covers” was the closer. But they didn’t… and what follows pushes this album over the edge.
Closing track “Aquaman” became my favorite track of 2014 almost instantly. Every member of the band is on point and the music comes together and melts like butter. In sound, the song is a modern homage to the ’80s, notably Peter Gabriel (although the ’80s is far from my area of expertise). This isn’t some novelty, however; “Aquaman” is the strongest song in WTM’s discography and I can see it becoming a staple in their live sets. I can’t imagine a more appropriate closer. In their Spotify commentary, Petricca, mentions that this is his favorite song and it’s evident as to why. “Aquaman” actually left me hungering for more. The sound that they achieved is so good and unlike anything I’ve heard in recent memory. The drums, the synth, the guitars… the sound is perfect. Once they start touring again in March, I’m hoping to see some ’80s covers sprinkled throughout their sets.
Talking is Hard is a step closer to Walk the Moon’s full potential. The songs on here are a complete improvement from the last album in all of the right ways. The band is releasing the album with all of the extras, just like last time (Last time around, the band filmed a home-grown music video for every song on Walk the Moon). ForTalking is Hard, they’re presenting individual artwork and handwritten lyrics, which you can check out on their Facebook page. As mentioned before, Petricca also did a Spotify commentary.
I’d love to take a hundred people and have them listen to an album in a dark room, and collect their candid thoughts. No matter what, opinions are always affected by what other people say, even if it’s subconscious. We live in an age where candid thoughts are hard to come by.