If Walker Kong's second album, There Goes the Sun was like a glorious coming-out party, their third album, Transparent Life, is a coronation. The album is 11 tracks of meticulously constructed adult pop that is equally thrilling and soothing, made to move your mind and set your heartstrings thrumming. The band takes cues from smooth '80s adult groups like Prefab Sprout, the Lilac Time, and especially the Go-Betweens, combining literate lyrics and sophisticated song structures. Something about the lush layers of guitars and organic instruments, the wistful vocals, and the epic swell of the songs brings to mind echoes of paisley underground bands: "Margot Andelieu" sounds lifted right out of the Rain Parade's songbook and "The Leisure Class" is very much like the best Green on Red song the band never recorded. The whole record sounds great as the production is flawless. The songs are full of surprising twists and turns and are quite varied, from the charging indie rock of "Battleship of Thieves" to the quietly dramatic chamber pop of "Transparencies" to the laid-back country-rock of the untitled bonus track. Vocalist (and chief songwriter) Jeremy Ackerman puts his vocals out front a bit more on this album, sounding very much like Grant McLennan and Robert Forster rolled into one. Alexandra Ackerman provides wonderfully supportive vocals throughout. When she finally steps out and gets some solo airtime on the "Perfect Line" (one of the better songs on the album, by the way), the effect is completely charming. The band is note perfect from beginning to end, Tony Mogelson's restrained lead guitar work and Emily Cahill's powerful drumming in particular. Walker Kong sound like the Band if they were Midwestern sweethearts or Yo La Tengo if they filmed in widescreen or the Hi Rhythm Section playing with a pre-arena Heartbreakers (Tom Petty's, not Johnny Thunders'). But wait, whatever you do, don't let all these lazy comparisons lead you to believe that the record is derivative, because it isn't. Not by a long shot. Embracing the past does not doom you to repeat it. Transparent Life is totally original and breathtakingly alive. Like contemporaries Young and Sexy, Walker Kong are the sound of the new sophistication, minus irony and with the addition of a thoroughly modern heart.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra