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Whitney - Spark (Album Review)

Thursday, 22 September 2022 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Tonje Thilesen

A cursory listen to ‘Spark’ might result in an unexpected experience for existing fans of Chicago’s Whitney, formed of Julien Ehlrich and Max Kakacek. Despite their knack for a strong pop hook, their harmonious melodies have to date always sat upon a bed of gentle folk and Americana, like a slightly psych-tinged Neil Young.

It was a particular strand of indie-folk they excelled at, not unlike Robin Pecknold’s ability to mine Americana roots for gems to present to a new generation. It also made their label Secretly Canadian seem like a spiritual home of sorts.

On ‘Sparks’ you are clearly listening to the same band—Ehlrich’s voice, after all, is particularly distinctive—the third offering from the duo can be described as nothing other than a pop album. 

Slick, stylised and dripping with the sweat from dancefloor ceilings, opener Nothing  Remains, with its smooth soul and R&B overtones, sends Whitney down a road they’ve seldom set foot on before, but one which they seem equally as comfortable following.

Real Love and Self would be equally at home on prime time and late night radio, with their processed beats and lounging keys making up the bedrock of Whitney’s  sumptuous new sound. There may be some that are disappointed in the direction the group has turned, and the new commercial home these tracks are likely to find. But those who dismiss it would miss the point. 

Whitney’s songwriting, despite the clothes it is dressed in, remains as strong as ever. And the album's penultimate track Lost Control bridges the gap from where they are coming from to where they are heading in expert fashion. Its opening seconds are a restrained vocal melody and piano to rival anything they have written to date, before a seductive late night vibe pulls it from the shadows under the glare of a disco ball. It’s a place Whitney will likely be spending quite a bit of time in the near future.

Whitney Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue November 22 2022 - BRISTOL SWX
Wed November 23 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Thu November 24 2022 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Fri November 25 2022 - GLASGOW QMU
Sun November 27 2022 - DUBLIN Academy

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