In early December, amid names like Adele, Justin Bieber, and Coldplay, The Walters found themselves yo-yoing comfortably up and down Spotify’s “Global Viral 50” chart. Their song “I Love You So,” the opener to the relatively nascent band’s first EP, was clearly making the rounds not just within the Chicagoans’ local circuit, but worldwide. The group’s social media pages corroborate this small-scale phenomenon: their Facebook brims with fan shout-outs spanning across the US and from France to New Zealand.
And yet, the self-described “cardigan rock” five-piece, formed just a little over a year ago, haven’t even been signed to a label yet, which seems like an inexcusable oversight in this day and age. There’s unquestionably something special about these guys, and with the recent release of their second EP, Young Men, this is a ripe time to dig into what the hype is all about.
Right off the bat, The Walters exude an element of kitsch with a sly wink, from the band’s name to the latest EP’s cover art (featuring a retro typeface and each of the members sporting crisp, white turtlenecks). Ostensibly, much of their actual music is also angled at nostalgia—sweet melodies recall ‘60s pop rock, infused with a penchant for vocal harmonies and a surfiness that have led to more than one Beach Boys comparison.
Indie bands with this type of sound really seem to have multiplied beyond their usual numbers in recent months, but The Walters stand out for their smart song and lyric writing. The seven-track EP’s third song, “Sweet Leaf,” is a solid example of the band’s style and strengths: it’s a short but immensely catchy tune, with a sunny guitar riff that belies its honest words about unrequited love.
Even more vintage leaning is the doo-woppy “I Haven’t Been True,” which turns the traditionally saccharine genre sideways with lyrics like “I wanted you but I just couldn’t stay” and “It’s hard to love someone / When you know that we are far too young.” Their lyrical content achieves a quality that is often elusive: effortless sincerity, which makes them not just easy to listen to, but easy to relate to.
Young Men closes with two particularly sweet ballads, “Cottage Roads” and “Autumn Leaves.” These could easily have turned out to be a couple of throwaways, but they’re tightly crafted with interesting, warm melodies and softly overlapping vocals. It’s thoughtful, yet buoyed by undeniable catchiness. Though these guys may not take themselves too seriously, their music easily convinces us to do so—coupled with their proven viral capabilities (strong resume material for any millennial), there's no doubt a well-deserved big break is headed their way.