When bands break up, it’s not uncommon for the artists involved to encounter an identity crisis. Should one make a clean break with a completely different sound and approach, or should one stick with what works and not veer far from that signature sound? The members of Whitney have found a third option with their debut album, Light Upon the Lake. While the band doesn’t share much with either member’s former projects (Smith Westerns for guitarist Max Kakacek, Unknown Mortal Orchestra for drummer Julien Ehrlich) in terms of core sound or songwriting ethos, Whitney does hold onto the feeling of open-arms familiarity that both bands accomplished so skillfully. As a result, Light Upon the Lake is the kind of record that a certain kind of music fan can love easily.

So much of Light Upon the Lake is built on the easy pleasures of classic rock. Throughout, the album maintains a warm tone that recalls listening to old records in a shag-carpeted living room. Ehrlich’s voice has a seemingly timeless quality, occasionally evoking memories of Lindsey Buckingham but often approaching something far more soulful. Kakacek’s guitars echo that sentiment, maintaining a clean, dulcet tone that makes every song warm and inviting. On lead single “Golden Days,” these elements combine beautifully into the sort of bouncy rock song that would have ruled AM radio for months in a different time. On “Dave’s Song,” Kakacek adds flourishes of folk, but Ehrlich’s interpretation of a set of real downtrodden lyrics cuts into the emotion of the song without creating an oppressively dour mood. In terms of craft and an interpretation of a well-defined sound, Light Upon the Lake is nearly peerless.

For all their mastery of this sound, though, Whitney’s reliance on warm familiarity can be their undoing at times. Rarely does one get a sense of who Whitney is. More often, one is drawn to compare the band to the singer-songwriters of the ‘70s whose sound Whitney lovingly pay tribute to. Whether it’s Fleetwood Mac, Harry Nilsson or even Bread, it’s all there in some form or another on Light Upon the Lake. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that; pastiche done exceptionally well has more value than people tend to give it. But through its despondent lyrics and occasional flourishes of strings and horns, Light Upon the Lake implies a depth or scope beyond mere pastiche that isn’t really there. Instead, they serve to momentarily remove you from the experience, which is a real shame given what a soundly-crafted experience the album often is.

While it may fall short of greatness, Light Upon the Lake is still a delightfully pleasant listen. Whitney arrives with a clearly defined sound and ethos that is both inviting and enveloping, and listeners may find the album to be a sneakily addictive listen. Even as it never achieves the greatness that it hints at and that its creators were likely aiming for, Whitney’s sound is so fully-formed and perfectly executed that it’s really hard to complain.

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