Combining vocal harmonization, metaphor laden lyrics, and the ability to come up with innumerable variations on the tone color of a few instruments, ‘The Fate of the World Depends on the Kiss’, the second album by Whitehorse, showcases what amounts to a throwback of sorts, a modern musical statement drawing heavily from North American influences of times gone by.
‘Devil’s Got a Gun’ is a particular favorite. The fuzzed out, blues riff coupled with the double vocals and the use of a drum machine and a sampler combine together in a way that sounds like so many other things yet is wholly its own. This song also showcases how tight their songwriting generally is; the development of the contrasting section is tied together by the use of rests; the silence that precedes the final section of the song is a technique that would be right at home in the symphonic literature of the European masters. The amount of tension it helps build is part of the reason why the song succeeds so completely; the way all of the elements of the song come together after the pause not only satisfies all the latent promise of the foregoing but also capitalizes on the anticipation that is so artfully derived.
Leading in a much more directly traditional vein is ‘Mismatched Eyes (“Boat Song”). With its fingerpicked texture and intertwined vocals, it has a distinctly folk feel to it. What I like about it is the rhythmic figures of the accompaniment, the harmonic progression, and the sheer aural brilliance of the combined vocals of Melissa McClelland and Jake Doucet. Both strong vocalists in their own right, they possess an almost devastating emotionalism when in combination. The weak part is the choice of metaphors in the lyrics. The way the lyrics translate comes off a little hokey on some level; at any rate, the lyrics, for me at least, are not up to the standard of the songwriting. In total, the lyrical content is the weak link for a duo whose musicality and knack for producing aural beauty on a level that is downright heartbreaking is the hallmark of their art. Simply beautiful.
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