Honest and Compelling
Whitney’s newest release, Light Upon the Lake: Demo Recordings is a collection of early recordings from the sessions for their debut Light Upon the Lake. The anticipation of the recordings comes with a press release:
“Light Upon The Lake, the debut from Whitney, was born from early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the most brutal winters in Chicago’s history. Vocalist/drummer Julien Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kakacek began writing unflinching, honest songs about everything from break-ups to the passing of Ehrlich’s grandfather. The pair leaned on one another for both honest critique and a sounding board for working through their newly-discovered truths.”
Ehrlich and Kakacek explained why they chose to release the demos in a statement:
“After almost two years of non-stop touring we decided we wanted to close the chapter on Light Upon The Lake by releasing the songs in their earliest incarnations alongside a cover of a band favorite by Alan Toussaint, and an unreleased track called ‘You and Me.’ We’re looking towards LP2 as we finish out the year on the road.”
The demos are a satisfying way to close the chapter on Light Upon The Lake, leaving listeners with just enough to tide them over until the next album is out. The album is heavily laced with soul, funk and pop, with tracks like “You And Me” pushing the album forward with the Whitney sound that everyone knows and loves. “You And Me” is classic Whitney, complete with the singer’s most soulful and compelling moment yet. From start to finish, the song perfectly encapsulates the entire vibe of the album. Thanks to its rich and dynamic textures, it’s a quintessential, caring love song that really touches your soul.
“No Matter Where We Go” is funky and fun, catching the listener right off the bat. The guitar work is especially nice in this song, wonderfully mixing with Ehrlich’s silky voice. There’s traces of guitars work here and there, sometimes alone and sometimes used in order to complement the vocals. The song is simply not long enough; each burst of guitar is memorable, with lush harmonies that fit perfectly with the lyrics.
The opening track “No Woman” tugs at the heart strings, with Ehrlich’s voice tingling with hope despite the sadness. His falsettos are on point and composed perfectly. It’s probably one of the slowest tracks of the album, which might make some wonder about it’s sequencing compared to the following songs. Despite the tempo, the lyrics make it a compelling introduction, as the singer seems to be going through a particularly rough time not seen in later songs. It almost seems like the singer is at first lost, then finds himself. At the end some orchestra comes in for a short moment, just enough to lighten the vibe; it’s aptly fitting.
“Golden Days” sounds like a Beatles-influenced track, although here they do it better than the original. Enrlich’s distinct voice against Kakacek’s guitar riffs is seamless and soothing as the track goes on. It’s a stark change from the opening track. “Polly” is easily a favorite off of the album, with a little bit of sassiness embedded in the vocals.
The album also features a cover of Allen Toussaint’s classic “Southern Nights,” which is absolutely rich and pristine. It’s a great way to end the album. Airy, light and sleepy, Ehrlich’s vocals work perfectly for this track. Vibrant and rhythmic, it’s life changing when Ehrlich croons “Southern skies, have you ever noticed southern skies? / It’s precious beauty lies just beyond the eye,” and it’s chilling when he sings “feel so good it’s frightening. Wish I could, stop this world from fighting.” It’s heartening yet crushing at the same exact time.
All in all, Light Upon the Lake: Demo Recordings is a high quality album. It’s hard to pick one track that stands out from the rest, and it’s even harder to name any songs worthy of skips. Sophisticated, sad and poignant, Whitney has created an album that is prolific and profoundly intoxicating.