Formed from the ashes of indie/rock band Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Whitney grew out of exploratory songwriting between Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, soon becoming something of a collective, with seven members playing a variety of instruments. Their sound is an enjoyable blend of indie folk rock with a heavy seventies influence and a touch of Americana, and although it’s not exactly at the vanguard, boy, do these guys make a lovely noise.
‘No Woman’ starts out lullaby smooth before a horn motif gives way to an acoustic strum and a fairly watery vocal, but as the falsetto gains a little strength so to does the song. There’s a little orchestration from lilting violins, meandering guitar lines and rich percussion, by the time the uplifting horns come back it’s a richly textured multi-layered thing of beauty, what could easily sound crowded is instead complimentary, with each element given a little breathing space; masterful.
Their use of horns is a constant throughout the album, and along with the groovy guitar licks and the subtle orchestration, many of the songs end up taking on a whole new dimension. ‘The Falls’ for instance, is a quirky two minutes of indie folk, but it features an array of nice little touches that give it a little depth, while ‘Golden Days’ suffles along pleasantly enough until the uplifting horns take it to a whole new level.
At its worst, the album is merely likeable, as on the stripped down title track or the jazzy interlude of ‘Red Moon’, but when everything comes together ‘Light Upon The Lake’ makes for compelling listening. Take ‘Dave´s Song’, the 70s tinged guitar licks add an emotional edge to this easy tale of lost love, the horns once again making it another lovely track. Then there´s ‘Polly’, which is a gorgeous piece of heartfelt crooning that showcases what they are all about – uplifting horns, emotive licks, soft percusion and emotion filled vocals that all makes for beautiful textures.
Although there is a strong nod in the direction of the past, they sound fresh yet retro, be it on the upbeat groove to ‘No Matter Where We Go’ or the Hawaiian vibe of ‘On My Own’, it’s all very likeable. ‘Follow’ closes the album in similar vein with an easy bass groove and bright guitars that give way to a melancholic horn, before building to a characteristically vibrant finale.
There are some quite gorgeous moments on this sublime record from Whitney, and it´s a strong debut album, with beautifully constructed songs boasting rich textures that make for highly enjoyable listening.