SPARK represents Whitney’s third album of originals and fourth LP overall with 2020’s cover record Candid. The Chicago duo of Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek have continued to evolve their warm 70’s soft rock sound and with each album have taken a bigger musical step forward. SPARK for sure highlights this expansive growth with new beats and a profuse amount of electronics.
This more complex approach on SPARK works well on several tracks like “Memory,” that has these great incorporated strings that form into the backbone of the track or the guitar work on “Blue.” I also like the drum boom on “Never Crossed My Mind” and opener “Nothing Remains” as both tracks fill a bigger space than any Whitney track that has come before it. With that said, SPARK stumbles a bit as it relies too heavily on vocal trickery as its layered tracks pull some of the warmth out of the album and leave you feeling like it is too polished. It is one thing to push songs into new directions but another thing for tracks to lose their distinctive connection. I can own that it is definitely more of a personal response, but I think most longtime fans will come away from SPARK with the same feelings.
Some of the strongest tracks on SPARK keep the listening interesting and will have you coming back to hear them again. Whitney soar when they harmonize on tracks and their more organic indie folk greatness found on their Headphone Approved debut, Light Upon The Lake (2016), does still peak through here from time to time. Whitney’s direction from this record is unknown but if anything, the ideas on SPARK should propel the band forward and hopefully they can add in a little more of the warmth that made them so engaging from the beginning.
“Nothing Remains” / “Memory” / “Never Crossed My Mind”
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