ALBUM REVIEW: WHITNEY – CANDID (SECRETLY CANADIAN)
Photo by Olivia Bee
As a band, releasing a covers album can be both a blessing and a curse; while you are freed from all songwriting capabilities, stylistically you may be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either copy the songs directly and risk being a bit of a cop-out, or take it somewhere completely different and risk it potentially being a flop. Finding a balance between the two is difficult, but it seems that for all intents and purposes, Whitney have just found that happy medium with Candid.
As a group that have divulged in covers before, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to see this woozy record slotting comfortably amid their repertoire. Formed in 2014 by drummer Julien Ehrlich of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Max Kakacek of Smith Westerns, Whitney have an indisputable way of making music that is the epitome of dreamy Americana, proven by the release of their debut album Light Upon The Lake in 2016.
Released via Secretly Canadian, this 10 track record is exclusively covers with material from artists as diverse as John Denver, SWV, Kelela and David Byrne. Julien Ehrlich comments on the LP that “it could’ve been as simple as saying we really love these songs and we love our bandmates and making a covers record just felt right but it truly became an exploration into how we can evolve as a band going forward.”
Listening to the album is a delight, of course, kind of like the musical equivalent to a warm breeze on a summer’s day. The dream, right? While Whitney aren’t doing anything particularly ambitious with the covers, they are tastefully re-imagined in a way that allows them to sit between tracks like ‘No Woman’ and ‘Golden Days’ as if they’ve always been there. Candid‘s lead track, a cover of Kelela’s more club friendly ‘Bank Head’ is transformed into a slower, dreamier ballad. We see them take on another R&B classic with SWV’s ‘Rain’, a sensual track that comes as a surprise sandwiched between Labi Siffre and Blaze Foley.
The one feature on Candid comes from Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield as she appears for a verse on the cover of John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ – a classic choice that we’d be surprised if they didn’t do. Crutchfield’s vocals perfectly compliment Ehrlich’s falsetto and turn the once grating (to some) track into a 21st Century indie-folk classic. In a statement, Max Kakacek says that “we knew that Katie was destined to sing this with us. We both heard her live and she has this classic country vibe. Once we heard her voice on it, it was pretty much magical. Her contribution is perfect.”
While Whitney fail to venture out of their comfort zone stylistically, their more eclectic song choices kind of let them off the hook. It is a beautiful album, and if I wanted to listen to Labi Siffre or David Byrne, I’d do just that. It delivers just what we want to hear from Whitney, and will be the soundtrack to my summer and autumn.