Light Upon The Lake
The hipster-credentials might threaten your engagement with the music – Whitney is a duo comprised of former members of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns but, as good as those bands were what matters now is the sound of Whitney, as heard on this joyous slice of infectious pop, the band’s debut album.
There’s something strangely magical about how this band has, Matthew E White-styled, emerged with a sound both fully its own and yet so overtly shaped by some great, baroque pop influences. Both Golden Days and Dave’s Song have something of The Band about them, and it’s not a bearded-hipster appropriation – in part it’s Julien Ehrlich’s loose-limbed drumming approach, but it’s more than just that. In the same way The Sleepy Jackson was able to tap into the mercurial and mine for their own gold, so it is with Whitney. A little slice of George Harrison’s songwriting feel here, glimpses of soul and classic pop dripping from song to song, Light Upon The Lake has David Crosby’s version of country guitars one minute (No Matter Where We Go) sixties jazz-rock horns the next (Red Moon). And with On My Own they take the Hawaiian-tinged little-lazy-loopy guitar licks of the Jack Johnson/Donavon Frankenreiter gang and instills a beating heart, some fun(k), some spunk, some soul.
These are charming, slight songs, most of them tracing right around that fabled three-minute-pop-song sound and feel (and duration) and if the vocals are a deal-breaker – at first almost comical (I couldn’t take it on first and second listens, couldn’t hear any reason why this deserved a chance) – stick with the record. Give it a chance to work its magic, for that’s what Ehlirch and Max Kakacek have channeled here; guiding it toward 10 sun-kissed, infectious, seemingly timeless/ageless, graceful songs. You really don’t get that these days. Well, feels that way anyhow. Light Upon The Lake is just so easy to cruise to, to groove to, almost as if some clever souls have created an alternative pop universe of songs as a soundtrack to some show about the 1960s/70s – and here’s the sunny, happy evocation through music. I love an album that wins me over after a few listens, makes me do a bit of work too; you hear enough of a germ of an idea to make you come back to it and give more chances even if not sold straight away. That’s the case with Whitney. Slowly, and now surely, my favourite new act of the year.