Walk The Moon Shatters Expectations on What If Nothing

Seven years ago, WALK THE MOON burst onto the alternative music scene with their single “Anna Sun,” but it wasn’t until their smash hit “Shut Up and Dance” peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 a couple of summers ago when the Cincinnati-based rockers became a household name. Now, nearly three years after the release of their sophomore major label breakthrough Talking Is Hard, Nicholas Petricca and company are back with What If Nothing, which goes from dancy synthpop to edgy alt.-rock, and does so rather seamlessly.

Right away with “Press Restart” the electronic effects feel more prominent than they have ever been, receiving a nice boost from the echo-y vocals throughout and the guitar that comes in about two and a half minutes into the song. The whole of What If Nothing has electronics pulsing through it, but this really shows on a few select cuts: the full-blown electro-rocker “Tiger Teeth,” the 6-minute epic “Sound of Awakening” (particularly its nasty second half), and the piano-driven electropop single “Surrender.” Elsewhere, this element serves as the glue holding everything together, putting a more recent refresh on the Brit. rock grooves that ruled the mid-2000s, like is the case with the tight banger of a single “Headphones,” and “All I Want,” the former of which boasts explosive guitars while the latter adds a few phenomenal spoken word bits into the mix. It also serves as a fiery backing for the fun riffing of “Feels Good to Be High.”

Vocally, frontman Nicholas Petricca really steps up to the plate on this record, from the soaring choruses of the singles “One Foot” and “Surrender,” to the varied delivery  and lyrical introspection on tunes like “All I Want,” to his incredibly powerful showings on “Kamikaze” and “Sound of Awakening.”

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the rhythm section is on-point throughout all of What If Nothing, and that’s not just in a traditional sense either. Take for instance the clapped backbone of “All Night” and “Kamikaze,” the killer drum fill throughout “In My Mind,” or even the driving stomp of “One Foot.” All of these tracks are quite a bit different from one another, that is, until taking into consideration how pivotal a role the rhythm section plays on each of them.

I feel like my biggest complaints with What If Nothing – the chorus of “One Foot” feeling like a pre-chorus that builds to a bigger chorus which does not actually exist, or the fadeout being the main highlight of closer “Lost in the Wild,” or the fact that tracks like “All Night” and “Can’t Sleep (Wolves)” don’t immediately stand out from the rest of the pack – are all fairly minor flaws. The reality here is that WALK THE MOON has returned with an LP that is fun but also not without substance. At 13 tracks spanning nearly an hour in runtime, it is the Ohio natives’ longest effort to date. Whether you’ve been a fan of the Buckeye State rockers for a while now or all you’ve heard from them is “Shut Up and Dance” on the radio, What If Nothing warrants a spin from everyone.

Score: 4/5

What If Nothing on iTunes | WALK THE MOON on Facebook

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