Album: Light Upon the Lake
Label: Secretly Canadian
Release Date: 06/03/2016
Neil Sedaka once sang, “Breaking up is hard to do.” But breakups have often been the inspiration behind some great records. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, Beck’s Sea Change and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours are just a few of the discs on the heartbroken hit parade. Now along comes Whitney.
Formed by core members Julien Ehrlich (drums, vocals) and Max Kakacek (guitar), Whitney is a band born from breakups both personal and professional. Yet the group’s debut album, Light Upon the Lake, is a lovesick song cycle that somehow conjures redemption from its own isolation.
The opening track “No Woman” is a bittersweet introduction. Featuring laidback acoustic guitar strumming, piercing horns and vocals that fall midway between pleading and resigned, the song lets slip a melancholy mood lurking beneath a ‘70s California rock sheen.
“Golden Days” possesses a more nostalgic outlook. Over a bouncy rhythm, Ehrlich sings about not being able to get it together, while longing for the “golden days” of the past. Interestingly, the song itself appears to be a nod to the past by retaining some of the country rock twang of Ehrlich and Kakacek’s former band, the Smith Westerns.
The trend towards Americana continues on the record’s title cut. Twinkling finger-picked guitar makes up the foundation of the track, while Ehrlich’s wordless vocals rise heavenward on the tune’s latter half.
By the time things wrap up with “Follow,” a song written as a eulogy for Ehrlich’s grandfather, listeners are left encouraged by the optimism that has been wrung from once depressing circumstances. Though most of Light Upon the Lake was written during a bitterly cold winter in Chicago, the end result is a West Coast love letter complete with sunshine breaking through dark clouds to signal a new beginning.
– Michael Cimaomo