There are numerous moments on Lisbon where it's simply vocals and guitar...or vocals and brass, vocals and drums...a detached choppy drum and a lilting guitar, just enough to coax you along. It's as though, via a peak and valley sort of structuring, the Walkmen have managed to capture that gravitating grab of "Hey!...listen!" that seems to bring a laser focus from the listener to any speaker's forthcoming exclamation, thus bringing any potentially distracting over-dressing so indicative of some brands of NY-arty-rock down to a sensible simmer.
The bobbing, strutty step of the sparse kit and the wafting surfy serenade of the guitars on "All My Great Designs" almost paints the humble image of some ignored-yet-still-grooving jazz trio shunted to the corner of a candle-lit club.
But then they get you - everything cuts away and the group harmonizes in this haunting sort of back alley Beach Boys manner and a beauteous lull settles over the listener. This has been what the band has been building to over their 10-year-career, that idyllic sonic swoon that they could wrap upon the listener; where once you thought you were on some calypso-cracked surf-toned shuffle of an artsy-indie-flavored creep pop trip, they sweeten the pop with some nuanced effect, be it their disarming harmonies, the sunny brass bolstering or a slip-sliding drum-fill before it kicks into high gear.
It's what had always set them apart from the gaping groany guitar rock of Interpol or the tumbling CBGB-glorified whirl and wail of the Strokes. The sparser the composition, the more invigorating your crescendos - and, as they've done before on tracks like "the Rat," the mesmeric, crashing crescendos (see much of "Angels Surf City") reward the patience of a groove plodding listener.
Listen: Walkmen - "Stranded"