On their self-titled debut, while walking claims that “we are all interdependent in this world and that music doesn’t need words.” Sure enough, anyone who has travelled or loved a piece of music in a language they don’t understand can attest to that. But, how does this hold up with alternative music; a genre largely characterized by the off-kilter lyrics and personality of the frontman? Turns out quite well. That’s not to say there weren’t moments when the music faded into the background and I found myself longing for a singer to cryptically yelp about their feelings. By and large though, while walking promises to take us on a journey and with only a double-neck guitar, drums, and a bass with a loop pedal, they manage to do just that.
The album tells the story of Callum and Ingrid, (while walking’s two founding members); how they met, travelled to the U.K. and Sweden together from Barcelona, and subsequently were inspired to form the band they are in currently. We’re never given any indication of whether their relationship is romantic or platonic, but it hardly matters. There is a once in a lifetime connection here and it’s contagious to be privy to it. Even though the only words are on the front cover and the narrative is noticeably non-linear, you will FEEL their story regardless. There is something cinematic about their music. I couldn’t help but think of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy. Each song is a loop representing a snapshot in time and as the arrangements becomes busier and more complex, so do the emotions of our protagonists.
The music is rich in tone, mood, and dynamic and there is thankfully diversity in the track-listing as the same vibe would get old fast. Like a score in a film, we are listening to the soundtrack of their lives. The bouncy “a new city for the first time” bolsters giddy excitement and the hustle and bustle of being in a strange and exciting environment. “Hello Sweden” is melancholic in that you can feel the beauty and horrors of a countries’ history just by walking around and opening yourself up to it. The last two tracks “Street Art” and “stop and enjoy the view” are by far the most startling due to Callum’s guitar overlapping to such an abrasive degree that we feel that the art is mocking them more than inspiring them. It’s only as the latter track starts to fade that we realize how much the trip has changed the duo. The jam-like nature of “stop and enjoy the view” hammers home the idea that it’s all about the present; no need for more than one chord progression, let’s enjoy this groove we find ourselves in.
while walking will impressively manage to hold your attention throughout and the music does speak for itself, however, a few of the livelier tracks seem to be begging for a spokesperson. So, even though “Monday’s Movie” and “Happy Lights” do capture the exuberance of Callum and Ingrid’s wonderful chemistry, they don’t stand out as much as they could. Perhaps this is perverse, but lyrics would certainly give us more details of their meeting, the nature of their relationship, and give those two tracks a bit more soul.
I do respect the air of mystery, so in the end, it’s all subjective. Some people might be turned off completely by the lack of lyrics, but I strongly encourage you to reconsider this stance and give while walking a chance. Enjoy the moment. Not everything needs an explanation.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy