Upon first listen, Light Upon The Lake is a curious record. It kind of washes over you, lulling you into a sleepy kind of happiness with its easy, breezy Americana-meets-lo-fi-indie-rock atmosphere. It’s the type of record that gets deeper and deeper with each listen, where you start to pick up on sharp edges under the sunny guitars and earnest (really, almost whiny) vocals. For a record whose subject matter is essentially failed relationships, this is a strikingly confident full-length debut.
While the album features plenty of talented musicians, Whitney is a duo formed by Julien Elrich and Max Kakacek, both formerly of Smith Westerns. Also of note, Julien Elrich was formerly the drummer for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Interestingly, Light Upon The Lake is the “Corona of rock records” (according to Pitchfork), which is a pretty stark departure from both Kakacek and Elrich’s earlier work. Instead of big synth lines and flourishes, Light Upon The Lake is mostly guitar solos, bright chords and occasional brass flourishes.
The halting rhythm on “Golden Days” is Whitney at their best, from the hummable vocal hook in the chorus, to the jangly chords giving way to a brass section. The song even throws out a nah-nah-nah singalong to close out the song, just in case it wasn’t already stuck in your head. One of my personal favourite songs on the record is “No Matter Where We Go”, probably because it harkens back to 70s pop rock in the best way (as does “The Falls”). Finally, while most of the record has a very upbeat feel, the album opener, “No Woman”, is probably the most pleasantly mournful song on the record.
While Erlich’s vocals (seemingly intentionally muffled) can veer into an outright nasal whine occasionally, I like the tone a lot, and it feels really appropriate for a record that’s straddling the line between the good and bad sides of ‘earnest’. If you want to get a good luck at them live, they’re heading to Montreal on October 14th (tickets) and Toronto on October 15th (but that one’s sold out!)
4.5 out of 5 stars
Must-Listen Tracks: “Golden Days”, “The Falls”, “No Matter Where We Go”
BUY Light Upon The Lake: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/light-upon-the-lake/id1093890670