This Whale Says Little
Lead by dual guitarists/vocalists Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft, not much could be written about Hawaiii than what could be written about many other albums by bands released in the last week, month or year. It is the fourth studio album by the Canadian indie band Said the Whale, and although the band is tight and well produced, it also feels very safe, especially for a group who should be more confident in experimenting with their sound.
The meaning of “safe” here is that things feel a little too crisp and calculated to feel like the beating heart of a driven band. Take the lead single “I Love You,” for example. Even aside from the thoroughly original title, the song just feels like the same type of power-pop that bands tried to copy from “My Sharona” in the early eighties. Mind you, it’s a harmless, rambunctious power-pop ditty that follows the “kitchen sink” philosophy of production, but it’s just not very memorable.
Elsewhere, Hawaiii just feels like it ticks the kind of boxes that a working and hopeful band intentionally shoots for in order to invite major label attention. That is not a sell-out judgment, as a good band deserves success, but this music just feels like it is really reaching for a certain popular sound. “Resolutions” has an odd outro rap section that adds little to the song save for confusion. There’s also the soft and sensitive set, with the piano ballad “More Than This,” and “Helpless Son,” but even the diversified sonics of these two offer little more than the others.
For the most part, the music is up-tempo rock that feels slick against the ear and the vocals, though often earnest, are robbed of that quality by the production. Take “Mother,” the second single from the album, for example, whose chorus sentiment of “Don’t tell my mother, until I pull myself together,” has an interesting honesty to it. Still, the processed new-waviness of the whole composition just turns that honesty into all-out cheese.
The problematic nature of the two singles in particular is that they can be found on the I Love You EP, which was released earlier this year. Of the twelve song set here, the singles obviously sound like that’s where the most work went and the rest fail to really make any sort of impact for better or worse. Nothing on here is outright bad, but even as the tempos, volumes and subjects change from song to song, it doesn’t feel like there’s an emotional investment from the players, talented as they may be.