And so the Bella Union love-in begins. It should come as no surprise to hear that this isn’t the only album released on that particular label to feature in this list, after the quite magnificent array of records they’ve put out since January. There’s a piece in the latest issue of The Word magazine proclaiming Bella Union the label of the year, and I don’t think anyone could really argue with that.
Where to begin? Well, ‘Blue As Your Blood’ could be straight from ‘The Age Of Understatement’ by The Last Shadow Puppets, which is no bad thing. Meanwhile, ‘Stranded’ sounds oddly like the Stereophonics (I know, not often, but they were good at the start) crossed with Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop The Cavalry’. And, although I know what you’re thinking, this is also no bad thing. The Walkmen have never previously sounded this good, so whatever it is they now actually sound like, whichever convoluted simile or metaphor gets wheeled out, it has to be a good thing. Because ‘Lisbon’ is a great record.
Hamilton Leithauser has a voice as good as his quite magnificent name and it is put to good use on this delightful record. I didn’t really come to the record with preconceptions or expectations, having enjoyed ‘A Hundred Miles Off’ without actually feeling any great need to explore further. Thankfully, ‘Lisbon’ landed in my lap and my luck was in. ‘Woe Is Me’ is a bit of prime quality, slightly obscured vocal jangle rock, sounding not unlike a band quite fond of early to mid period Beatles. It’s a wonderfully warm sounding record created by a band who truly sound like they love doing this. There’s not an ounce of fat on ‘Lisbon’, although you suspect that the effortless feel is oh-so-very meticulous, for all the right reasons.
With lyrics like “I could dream of you forever” and numerous mentions of the “sky above”, the lyrics aren’t going to offer you a profound meditation on life, but they’re entirely right for such an optimistic sounding record, and a record which was borne of fifties and sixties rock, when a well placed platitude worked wonders. If you don’t finish listening to ‘Lisbon’ with a smile on a face I’d be really rather surprised. And suspicious.