The Walkmen are a band that have happily ignored many of the passing musical trends that seem to sweep the New York indie scene every couple of years, and they have been doing so for a decade now. The group’s maturation over the years has been nothing short of amazing to watch. From the angry and nervous energy of 2002’s “Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone” and 2004’s “Bows + Arrows” to the ways they focused that energy on 2006’s “A Hundred Miles Off” and 2008’s astounding “You & Me,” the band have become masters of channeling catharsis in unpredictable and exciting ways. Throughout, they have constructed a sound that belongs to them alone, and this is expertly demonstrated on “Lisbon,” the band’s fifth album. Front man Hamilton Leithauser’s increasingly vivid laments of complicated relationships, missed opportunities, and dreams of escape and the lushness of the band’s music serve as a testament to why they are still important, despite the fact that many of their peers have run their course.

Musically, “Lisbon” opts for more sunny and open arrangements compared to the more moody and atmospheric tendencies found on “You & Me.” In recent interviews, the band said that the sound for this album was inspired by two trips to Lisbon and the recordings of Nashville label Sun Records, where Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash recorded some of their earliest material. Many of the songs presented here echo those ideas, whether it’s in the way that the excellent “Blue As Your Blood” bounces along with it’s simple yet elegant guitar line or through the slower, waltz-like “Torch Song,” which gives off the feeling of watching the sun set on the Atlantic. The band have always excelled at creating mood through their music, and “Lisbon” is no exception.

The main reason they are able to create such elegant sound scapes is the sheer talent each member possess as musicians. Leithauser’s voice can go from a soulful croon to a yowl that sounds as if he’s going to shred his vocal cords at any second, his delivery so refined and professional it’s almost scary. Guitarist Paul Maroon’s contribution to the band’s uniqueness is undeniable, as his guitar’s one of a kind sound provides many of the song’s hooks through his knack of finding guitar lines and chord progressions that work well in context with Leithauser. Meanwhile, the incessant and pulsating percussion of Matt Barrick, Peter Bauer’s consistent bass playing, and the textures of Walter Martin’s keys round out the band’s sound. It all comes together naturally, and the group sound as if they knew what they wanted to play before entering the studio, something they’ve been doing since day one.

One of the most striking aspects about “You & Me” was Leithauser’s seemingly effortless ability to use minor details to add depth to his stories. The sand in his suitcase on “Donde Esta La Playa” and the way the steel of his knife was reflected in the object of his desire on “Red Moon” only added to the emotional resonance of the tales he was telling. This sort of attention to imagery continues on “Lisbon.” “Underneath the juniper tree, I sing a sad song of you and me,” he sings on the excellent “Blue As Your Blood,” indicating that while he is surrounded by immense beauty, he is still saddened by the fact that an affair with a Spanish speaking woman didn’t work out.

Despite this, there is still an overall sense of optimism in his words. “The lord came down and said to me throw off your worries and be at peace,” he sings a few verses later. While he may have lashed out at those who wronged him or drowned his sorrows on earlier albums, these sentiments indicate that he is able to move past the pain onto something better. It all points to Leithauser’s growth as a songwriter, and how he has came into his own as one of the most dynamic front men of this generation.

There are plenty of highlights throughout Lisbon’s 45 minute run time. “Stranded” brings back the brass section that was utilized on “A Hundred Miles Off” and “You & Me” and puts it in the forefront, perfectly complimenting Leithauser’s smoothed delivery. Meanwhile, “Angela Surf City” is the most rocking song the band has put out in quite some time, as it’s played with the same kind of manic energy and breakneck pace that drove the group’s most beloved song, 2004’s “The Rat.” Barrick’s drumming is authoritative and sounds like a well oiled machine, while Maroon’s guitar chimes away and Leithauser lets go of all inhibitions during the chorus. That same sort of approach is brought to “Woe Is Me,” though in a more subtle way. Even in the band’s slower numbers, they are still just as effective and emotionally resonant as when they’re firing on all cylinders. “All My Great Designs” and the piano driven “While I Shovel The Snow” are slow burners that still drive the message home. The only song that feels out of place is the entirely too short “Follow The Leader,” but it’s easily forgiven considering the quality of the other songs on the album.

With “Lisbon,” The Walkmen show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. They have utilized all of the things that make them unique and continue to expand upon their sound, something that many bands with members approaching middle age simply can’t do. While it may not have the immediacy or bite that their earlier albums had, the band have found other ways to make “Lisbon” sound fresh across multiple listens. They are one of the few bands that have been able to transcend the scene that spawned them, and they are all the better for it.

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