Returning from its hiatus year long, WALK THE MOON has returned in 2017 with a new album: “What If Nothing.” The band’s third studio album, “What If Nothing” expounds upon the high energy alt pop/rock sound WALK THE MOON has established for itself.
The album opens with the head bobbing track “Press Restart.” The song’s title seems especially relevant in light of the band reconvening after a hiatus – a deeply personal time during which vocalist Nick Petricca’s father passed away and bassist Kevin Ray got married. Lyrics like “Head-heart malfunction. Maybe it’s not an ending. Maybe it’s a beginning,” seem to encapsulate this time of change. The song meanders more than a typical pop song, and this allows the song to explode towards the end rather than just at the chorus.
“Kamikaze” is a track that particularly stands out on the album. The pulse of the chorus makes it excellent for dancing, but although WALK THE MOON made a name for itself with the dance track “Shut Up and Dance,” the band continues to distinguish itself from other artists you’d hear in a club with its rock edge. In “Kamikaze” the vocals border on anthemic – Petricca’s wild cries are rousing, and encourage a vocalized response.
One of the strongest tracks on the album is the slightly more subdued “Tiger Teeth.” By no means an acoustic song, “Tiger Teeth” distinguishes itself in its less aggressive rhythm and enveloping sensation. The long intro gradually leads the listener into the song with the instruments having a distant, angelic sound as they first flow in. The lyrics open with the hook: “Give in, give in I want you back,” Petricca sings, and consuming sound of the song encourages this surrendering. “Tiger Teeth” fills and floods with its depth of sound ranging from drums pads to a squeaking noise that may be the scratching of a record. Although it may not become a staple at clubs, this song is emotionally impactful. Like the line “I ate you up the day we first spoke,” this song absorbs its listener.
“Sound of Awakening” opens with an unnerving a capella section with heavily edited robotic vocals. The song remains even throughout its lengthy six minute span, and this leads to the track becoming background noise rather than an engaging song. Although this song falls a little short in its experimentation, it is a positive inclusion in that it reveals WALK THE MOON’s developing personality.
The album closes with “Lost in the Wild,” a riotous, exuberant song. Petricca’s vocal flairs, mostly heard in live settings, appear on this studio track. Particularly noticeable in the line “flashes of the night” is this vocal twist. As a closing song, this track suggests a realm beyond, or deeper within, the album. “Don’t look over your shoulders. Let’s get lost in the wild,” sings Petricca. Rather than finality, these lyrics suggest continuation. It is then particularly successful as a “final” song when the album is on repeat because when it loops back to the beginning “Press Restart” acts as a gate back into the album.
“What If Nothing” is a step towards greater introspection for WALK THE MOON. However, the band maintains high energy throughout most of the album. The album is more produced than past work, and this gives some of the songs greater dimensionality, but in other cases the focus on a studio sound prevents the song from reaching its full emotional impact.