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Walk the Moon deliver the fun with ‘What If Nothing’

(Walk The Moon Official Facebook Page)

“What If Nothing” is the latest release from indie pop group Walk the Moon. The band found incredible success in 2014 with the hit single “Shut Up and Dance” from their sophomore album “Talking is Hard.” Their latest, released Nov. 10, 2017 shoots for the stars with a chic, synth-filled sound.

The utterly fun “What If Nothing” is a near hour-long, 13-track album that sees Walk the Moon hone their sound and production. “What If Nothing” is a child jumping in a puddle after it rains. It’s a fun, shallow experience that revels in its fleeting nature, and the album doesn’t weigh listeners down with dense songwriting or dark themes.

There isn’t a “bad” song on the album either, and each song gels well with the tracks that surround it. Album opener “Press Restart” does exactly what it should do: get listeners hyped for the rest of the album. It’s a mid-tempo tune with cascading synths and layers of vocals that is a smart introduction to Walk the Moon’s sound. If “Press Restart” turns you off, the rest of the album probably won’t do you much better.

“Headphones” is an endlessly joyful tune, with vibrant production that draws a colorful attraction to entice listeners in. Nicholas Petricca, the band’s lead singer, showcases his vocal chops jumping from near-screaming to a falsetto and back again throughout the song. It’s also one of a few spots that features an instrumental solo, and the band uses it to surreptitiously explore a heavy sound that isn’t felt again on the album.

The fourth single released, “Surrender,” fails to make the album feel relevant to the average listener. It also isn’t in “bad” territory to turn fans of the band away, so it has found a good middle ground of blandness. Full of vapidity, “Surrender” is a middling track on the album — not hard to listen to, not difficult to sit through, but utterly whatever. The mid-to-slow tempo track features some of the more interesting themes – vulnerability after a breakup – of the album, but musically there’s nothing to back them up.

“Kamikaze” manages to stick out from the album. The track utilizes big sounds and a traditional progression to mix groovy verses with explosive choruses. Another standout is the album finisher, “Lost in the Wild,” which reminds us that some of the band can play piano. Vocal harmonies are a near-constant for the track, which feels like it’s celebrating the unknown. Walk the Moon dance their way to the end of the album and sound great while doing it.

Walk the Moon have developed a slick sound that centers on upbeat tunes that make listeners want to jump up and dance. The songwriting errs towards irreverent on the vast majority of the tracks, as Petricca sings a falsetto throughout. Even when themes delve slightly toward a darker side, Walk the Moon keep a feeling of levity through inspired production and musicianship. A few tracks feel as though they should be “inspiring” – lead single “One Foot” comes to mind – and while this aspect of some songs can feel contrived, it doesn’t break the song’s upbeat and fun vibes.

If there is any issue to take to the album, it’s that it plays so much on the safe side. Walk the Moon are a fun, imaginative band whose biggest exploration on the album is the slower, longer “Sound of Awakening.” A synthesized vocal track and deep bass form the core of this most interesting song from the album. The track has a different texture from the rest of the album, and breaks it up in a lovely way. Much of “What If Nothing” feels as though the band is afraid to take an idea too far, and “Sound of Awakening” feels like the band is actually taking those ideas to realization.

“What If Nothing” hasn’t had a huge crossover hit like “Shut Up and Dance” but the album is a solid and endlessly fun collection of tunes. “One Foot,” “Feels Good to Be High,” “All I Want,” “Tiger Teeth” and “Headphones” are all awesomely groovy, danceable tracks that grab from the first notes.  If Walk the Moon can’t put a smile on your face with “What If Nothing”, it’s on you.

Matt Leonard can be reached at mcleonard@umass.edu.

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