Whitney : Spark

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On Whitney’s Spark, the Chicago duo dive in deep on what radical changes can do for one’s creativity. In their case, it was a lot—here, they expand on their already strong core with a fresh, pop-laden take on their folk- and country-leaning sound on previous albums like Forever Turned Around. The timeline behind Spark was a heavy one—the duo relocated to Portland, Oregon right before the pandemic began in 2020. And as such, Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek found themselves able to approach writing in a different way, experimenting with their sound and techniques, while also both processing breakups. Ehrlich said of the writing, “We had time to just sit and watch the body of work grow in real time.”

Brimming with a new perspective and eager approach to the future, the band curated tones and ideas that they connected with, to result in a breezy, yacht-rock-inspired brand of pop. On “Blue,” the band incorporates shimmering horns and crisp drums to create a bright take on the excitement of new love. As Ehrlich sings, “Lately you’re the only reason my heart beats,” images of butterflies and first crushes are conjured up, the band leaning into the joyous feeling of opening yourself up. Much of Spark examines what is left when a relationship ends, and also takes care to detail a new one’s beginnings. Meanwhile, the musical growth on the album shows, with so many intricate details and choices feeling like a level up from their past work. 

Produced by John Congleton (Angel Olsen, Baroness), the album has a layer of haze and heat, the way the air feels heavy on a summer night, and you can almost hear the cicadas in the background. It’s dizzying and dazzling, sweeping listeners up in its effervescent tone. The album finds the band opening up in both sound and content, their lyrics digging deeper than past albums and not afraid to work through the hard stuff and “bad news” they talk about on “Twirl.” This album finds the band working through obstacles in a cathartic, danceable manner on “Memory,” fused with a smooth, fuzzy guitar riff. The track is fun and full of light as it navigates through Ehrlich’s method of a personal pep talk, singing, “Changes will happen / I’m never gonna be where I’ve been.” There’s a release within his words, the truth constantly happening becoming clearer than ever. 

Too much living / broke me down,” Ehrlich sings on album opener “Nothing Remains.” It feels like the thesis of Spark—alone, it is a line full of defeat and hopelessness. But it’s what follows on the next 11 tracks that spin the overall attitude around. Through writing the album, the band found a new take on their art, and also the value in staying hopeful, even in the most dire of times. 

Label: Secretly Canadian

Year: 2022

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