Whitney released Light Upon the Lake: Demo Recordings on Nov. 10, which was as its name suggests, is a full collection of demos from their 2016 album Light Upon the Lake.
The album also includes one additional original song, “You and Me” and a cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights.” Even though this album is just as breezy, soulful and earnest as Light Upon the Lake was, that is because it essentially just is Light Upon the Lake over again. Whitney’s demos do not stray very far from the already released versions, and despite sounding as good and “Whitney-esque” as ever, may not have been worth being officially released again.
Listen, I love demos as much as the next guy. I love demos because I love the grittiness, the unfinished-ness that is the nature of songs that haven’t been mastered yet by sound engineers for what is traditionally valued in sound production. The thing is, Whitney’s songs aren’t gritty like that. In both the original release and the demos, the band’s appeal is how light and airy the vocals are over the effortless guitar playing. Whitney is a talented, and a worthwhile band, but releasing the demos didn’t showcase anything we were really missing on the original release.
Additionally, this Whitney signature sound is the light, freeing, breezy; it’s the sound of the summer. It seems odd that they released this demo album right as we are about to enter the tundra months. A variety of articles and interviews do say that most of this album was written in the depths of a brutal Chicago winter, so it’s possible there is some correlation between that and this release time.
But even the cover song “Southern Nights” is about, you guessed it, a southern night and being “free as a breeze.” The south is known for being warm, and the imagery evoked with breezes and swaying trees is that of beautiful summer nights. Both the lack of significant difference and this of release time has me questioning this album.
While the demo album seems like a pretty unnecessary release, the album itself still has its strong points. First of all, Whitney is a great band. They have it all — earnest, thoughtful lyrics, guitar solos, a singalong vibe, supportive, soft brass instruments complimenting it all perfectly. Hearing these songs again is by no means offensive, and is pretty nice.
The new release “You and Me” is so much fun. It reminds us of why fan fell in love with Whitney to begin with, and we can fall in love all over again. Getting a new song from a band you love always feels like such a blessing. Lastly,
In a statement from the band, Whitney stated:
“After almost two years of non-stop touring we decided we wanted to close the chapter on Light Upon The Lake by releasing the songs in their earliest incarnations alongside a cover of a band favorite by Alan Toussaint, and an unreleased track called ‘You and Me.’ We’re looking towards LP2 as we finish out the year on the road. – Love, Max and Julien”
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I think that’s sort of beautiful. Whitney was in the right place at the right time. Their tunes are inherently nostalgic and have a special place in my heart because they’ll always remind me of the time in my life that I spent heavily spinning their record. It feels right that they are almost containing this set of songs to a particular time and moving on.
As artists grow and change and evolve sometimes their old songs seem tired. Whitney is almost preemptively not allowing this to happen.
Overall, this album was non-offensive, but also not required. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but Whitney put a cap on these songs and let go of a really great chapter. We are left saying goodbye to a piece of art we loved, but ultimately looking forward to Whitney’s new LP.