Label: Secretly Canadian
Release Date: 14th August 2020
“If at times Whitney can seem a little monotonous, it is because they’ve established exactly what it is that they are, love it or not.”
One year on from the success of their previous album, Forever Turned Around, the Chicago duet Whitney stay on trend with another summer release, this time with a bundle of starry covers.
Whitney’s soft-rock sound is as familiar and serene as it was in their debut album, Light Upon the Lake, but whilst their sonic palette seems largely unchanged, these eclectic cover choices see the band continuing to evolve. It is influence that see Whitney drift into a new direction.
Candid is carefully curated: subtly experimental, the band have made unexpected choices in covers that come together unified. The album opens with ‘Bank Head’, a cover from R&B songwriter Kelela. Whitney transform the original track: sparse piano chords with a soft background beat begin the album, while Kelela’s high pitched vocals are matched by Julien Ehrlich. As an opener, Bank Head risks seeming a little lacklustre, but as the album develops, its slow, balmy feeling establishes itself more richly. In ‘Hammond Song’, a cover from the seventies trio The Roches, Max Kakacek’s recognisable soft slide-guitar rises mid-track, effortlessly nostalgic.
Giving Whitney a run for their money in the indie-folk scene is the dreamy Waxahatchee, who features, I was very excited to see, in a cover of John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’. She is a perfect choice for the track, her rich voice balancing well alongside Ehrlich’s higher vocals. The rendition doesn’t try to alter the song too harshly, and for such a classic, it seems a wise decision. Together, though, they give the track its needed touch of warmth.
Whitney’s closing rendition of Blaze Foley’s ‘Rainbows and Ridges’ is a gorgeous ending to the project (and this does feel more like a project than an album), ending slow and simply but with grace and poignancy. It’s heart-warming to see largely unknown country and folk songs be resurfaced and remade; they have been delivered to a different, perhaps younger audience.
Whitney never push themselves to be anything they're not. More than finding ‘a voice’, they have established, quite neatly, the band in all its facets: their aesthetic (lakes and flowers and rivers and sea), their whimsical instrumentals (‘Something Happen’ is this album’s ‘Rhododendron’), Ehrlich’s understated yet unmistakable vocals.
You’ll enjoy Whitney’s new album, if you enjoy Whitney. If you’re on the fence about them, I’m unsure that these covers will change your mind about them either way. If at times Whitney can seem a little monotonous, it is because they’ve established exactly what it is that they are, love it or not.
Often cover albums can risk fading into the obscure, dusty corners of an artist’s discography. But as Whitney continue to establish themselves, I can’t see Candid being that album. At its best, Candid reignites and solidifies Whitney’s sound, projecting the simple beauty that drew fans to them in the first place.
Words by Kate Wassell.
20th August 2020.