Whitney – Candid (Secretly Canadian)
LP | CD | DL
Out 14th August 2020
With their new covers album, Whitney mostly play it safe, but they still end up delivering a fantastic summer soundtrack. Elliott Simpson reviews.
Whitney are very well-versed in the art of covering songs. In addition to their fan-favourite rendition of Allen Toussaint’s Southern Nights, the band has covered likes of Wilco, Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton, among many others.
It could be argued that all of these artists sit very comfortably in the band’s indie-folk wheelhouse – all seeming like obvious influences for the group’s sound. However, with their new covers album Candid, Whitney’s choices are a bit more eclectic.
The band seems keen to prove they do, in fact, listen to a lot more than just folk and indie rock. Their song choices on the album range from groovy electronica (David Byrne’s Strange Overtones) to R&B (Kelela’s Bank Head) and psychedelic folk (Damien Jurado’s A.M. AM). Perhaps the most eclectic pick of all is the sparse and melancholy High On A Rocky Ledge from cult 60s musician Moondog.
It’s the less obvious cover choices such as these that yield the best results on Candid. Whitney’s rendition of Kelela’s Bank Head transform’s the club-ready original into a dreamy, woozy ballad. The electronic beat and vocal samples are swapped out for the group’s signature delicate guitar and piano combo, reconfiguring the song completely. Similarly, their take on Strange Overtones manages to retain the original’s mood while marrying it with a more earthy, organic sound.
The band never really eclipse the original versions of the songs they’re covering but that would be a big ask. The best songs on Candid are definitely strong enough to stand by themselves though.
The weaker covers on the album, mostly, are the more obvious ones. Whitney’s rendition of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads – a duet with Waxahatchee – is probably the worst offender. While Whitney’s version is far from bad, it just feels incredibly phoned-in and energyless, especially when compared to the original.
Whitney’s take on Hammond Song is similarly weak, mainly because Julien Ehrlich’s voice doesn’t have the strength the song needs. It just makes you want to go back and listen to the original by the Roches.
It’s also slightly disappointing that, despite some of the more out-there song choices, the band never really venture out of their comfort zone stylistically on Candid. Each song is rendered in Whitney’s usual instrumental palette, including the icily clean guitar and piano, and the occasional flourishes of brass. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the album could’ve served as a chance for the band to experiment a little more. As it stands, Candid sits pretty snugly alongside their other two albums.
Despite its drawbacks, Candid is still a gorgeous project that shows Whitney delivering more of what we’ve come to expect from them. With its bright, shimmering sound, it’s destined to soundtrack many people’s summers.
You can find Whitney online here.