Whitehorse has had an increasing presence on the Canadian music scene since emerging in 2011, playing festivals and cross-country tours, and the release of several albums and EPs. Another tour is currently underway that will see them traveling throughout Canada and the United States in support of their newest record, the rockier Leave No Bridge Unburned.
The duo consists of husband and wife Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, who for the first time, permit outside ears to sway their sound. Produced by Canadian rock producers Gus Van Go and Werner F, Leave No Bridge Unburned leave the duo within the realm they’ve established so solidly but with twists that turn up the dial.
What does remain is their signature sound, that is Luke and Melissa’s harmonies. If there’s one constant they have it’s how well they sound as a pair, whether they’re singing together or trading lines. The energy they feed off of each other is evident in songs like album intro Baby What’s Wrong, which employs both back-and-forth and their rich harmonies.
Their pairing has become something of a theme for their music. In Fake Your Death (And I’ll Fake Mine), they romanticize their escape together as mischievous singles who pair up and make their escape. Even on the menacing The One I Hurt, they use distance to create a connection between them, both in the production and the lyrics. “I’m dreamin’ at you/and I know you are dreamin’ at me” Like with their last record, The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss, they seductively embrace danger and make it romantic.
This record channels them away from the folk layerings of their past ones, relying on rockier textures that add crunchy adventure, fatten the sound and expand the room, but also limit their versatility. Dear Irony is the first toned-down track that allows a break from the widened guitars, drums and reverb, but it occurs late in the album and is immediately followed by the only other tamed track, Fake Your Death (And I’ll Fake Mine).
The contrast of these songs to the rest make them standouts and also helps to break the sea of sometimes overbearing and biting production. It could simply be a case of redistributing these songs and placing them earlier on, or pulling back on the dial elsewhere to allow more breathing room.
Overall, this record doesn’t feel as engaging or compelling as what they’ve accomplished before. The songs simply exist. The hooks aren’t hooky enough, the sentiment isn’t sentimental enough, and the grit isn’t gritty enough. Where the last record had one thing after another jump out in the first listen, this one doesn’t after half a dozen spin-throughs. It makes for a more challenging record to confront.
Despite that, everything passes on Leave No Bridge Unburned. With it, Whitehorse successfully continue their mission of creating their own distinct brand of wild-west Americana, burning everything along the way, and at the very least, Luke and Melissa are always a pleasure to hear together.
1. Baby What’s Wrong
2. Tame As The Wild Ones
4. Sweet Disaster
5. You Get Older
7. The One I Hurt
8. Dear Irony
9. Fake Your Death (And I’ll Fake Mine)
10. Oh Dolores
11. The Walls Have Drunken Ears