(This article was originally written for Montreal Rampage)
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Whitehorse might very well be Canada’s answer to the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks duo of yore (but without the stormy relationship): they’re mega talented, beautiful, their voices complement each other’s perfectly and together they make music that seems magical. The folk-rock duo is composed of husband and wife Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, and “Leave No Bridge Unburned”, their third full-length album, is a marvelous collection of songs that masterfully blend 60’s rock, surf guitar, spaghetti western scores and haunting vocal harmonies, all in a package that still sounds modern. And for the first time, the duo worked with producer Gus Van Go and his usual accomplice Werner F to write and record, and to expand on what they had done on their first two CDs.
Many songs on this album could easily find a place in a Quentin Tarantino movie, not only because of their sound, but because they exude coolness and have a sultry vibe to them that permeates the whole thing. The musical textures all over the album rely on sparse arrangements and reverb drenched guitars with a twangy tremolo, creating a bed over which their smooth vocals can fly. There’s never a note that’s out of place, never a note that’s missing. It’s a record that’s intimate, yet adventurous.
The concept of duality is omnipresent on this album: it’s to be found in the contrast between Luke and Melissa’s voices, in the call and response vocals (as in the chorus of the opening track “Baby What’s Wrong”) or in the single “Downtown”, a love/hate letter to the big city that looks at the opposing views of the suburbs and the city. It’s even in the video as the band’s doppelgangers chase them throughout the song before finally joining force as a band of two times two.
That song is about the fascination for the big cities despite the problems that often come with that environment (“I’m living downtown… and it’s killing me.”) It runs on an irresistible bass/drum groove over which guitar and keyboards dance all around the vocals; all at once, it has the drive of a subway train, the coolness of a downtown hotspot and the loneliness of a nameless individual in a crowd. This is my favourite song on the album, and I can’t stop playing it. To be honest, I can’t stop playing the whole album. And the more I play the album, the more I find reasons to love it.
I could analyze the album track by track, but really, what would be the point? It’s a vibe thing; every track is full to the brim with life, introspection and love. Part of the fun is the discovery; with every listen, you get to know it a little bit more, and reveal another part of its meaning. It’s a deep record that sounds deceptively simple.
And if you’re into that sort of thing, this would be a fantastic one to get on vinyl: it’s the kind of album you dim the lights for, drop the needle, close your eyes and let the music carry you away.
It’s a great album from two fantastic musicians. I highly recommend it.
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