Walk The Moon’s sophomore album more of the same, but appealingly so



Mikaela Krim

Pop-rock band WALK THE MOON spent spring of 2011 touring with such modern indie chieftains as Panic at the Disco, Weezer, Grouplove and Young the Giant. 

Yet it wasn’t until 2013 and the swelling popularity of its hit single “Anna Sun,” that the Cincinnati-based group found their foothold in the music scene. 

Their first album was a fun exploration of pop musicality. With their self-titled debut, the group did not hesitate to exercise the widest range of their creativity, each track being distinctively separate and yet fitting a crowd-pleasing mold. 

Now WALK THE MOON is back with their second studio release, “Talking is Hard.” Sophomore albums are notoriously tricky—whether a group chooses to continue their formula or break into the realm of the experimental, it is bound to receive flack. 

WALK THE MOON played it safe this time, sticking to the success of its typically bright and fast-paced fodder. It fell short, however, on attaining the same level of creative variation it had achieved with its previous record. 

Most of the tracks on “Talking is Hard” are good. But in place of the minor keys, syncopated rhythms and a-typical meters of their debut, the band chose to follow a single recipe, creating a record that feels like one long gradient of the same color. 

The title of the opening track, then, is ironic. 

“Different Colors” sets the tone for the rest of the album, a dance floor anthem with a chorus seemingly made for screaming along in large groups. 

But the lyrics are disappointingly uninspired, full of inane declarations like “We’re different colors/we carry each other,” that possess little depth of meaning. 

The most visited themes regard the yearning, pining and rollercoaster-like emotionality of youthful love, incorporating phrases about “grass stains” and things that happened “back in ’95.”

Much of the album is filled with such comments, with the exception of some well-worded tracks such as “Portugal” and “Down in the Dumps.” 

The latter contains one of the cleverest lines of the album, when lead singer Nicholas Petricca tells a former lover they can “throw all the fits and the tantrums they want,” a cue to Los Angeles band Fitz and the Tantrums. 

“Down in the Dumps” is indeed one of the album’s high points, and one of the rare times WALK THE MOON plays around with rhythm in the style of their past work. It’s heavy on the synthesizer, and switches back and forth from a funky 80’s-inspired beat. 

In fact, much of “Talking is Hard” seems to have found influence in the Duran Duran-, Cure-like spirit of the 80s—the band toys with a decidedly more electronic sound, fuzzy around the edges yet still immaculately polished in that classically pop way. 

Yet WALK THE MOON differentiates itself from other pop-rock groups of the same ilk by throwing in some truly musical guitar riffs. 

Granted, the little cadenzas are as hyper-processed as can be expected of any group with a producer like Tim Pagnotta (of Neon Trees fame), but they involve an interesting range of pitches and note variations; they’re complex melodies. 

“Work this Body” has one such riff, sandwiched between sunshiney beats and a tropical rhythm. 

Besides the album’s first single, “Shut Up and Dance,” which is already a feature on alternative radio stations, the most stand-out track from “Talking is Hard” is “Avalanche,” a perfectly lovely excursion into pop bliss. 

Coupled with lyrics musing on the age-old concept of love at first sight, the melody pulls at your heartstrings and swells with nostalgia. 

It sounds like high school like crowded bleachers under crisp fall air and crushes and glances met over a bonfire. 

It doesn’t hurt that the chorus contains a poetically pleasing bit of assonance, or that Petricca’s soaring falsetto hits all the right notes. 

Tracks like these remind us why WALK THE MOON started attracting such popular acclaim in the first place: its sound is nothing but fun. 

“Talking is Hard” is an album which you can listen to anywhere, any time, in any mood. 

So maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the group has stuck to its single-churning formula.

 It has struck the right balance, producing emotionally provocative material that doesn’t alienate its audience. 

And maybe in the future, when it does take strides in other directions, we’ll find ourselves longing for this WALK THE MOON, the one that wants nothing more than for you to “Shut up, and dance with me.”