Former Smith Westerns members Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich rebranded themselves as Whitney, with the release of their debut album last summer, Light Upon the Lake. Since then they have had a steady schedule of touring as well as releasing the occasional song. Now Whitney expands on their previous success. Light Upon the Lake: Demo Recordings gives a deeper dive into Whitney’s debut album.
This album contains two songs not originally on Light Upon the Lake, “You and Me,” and “Southern Nights”. Following suit with pretty much everything else Whitney has released, these two songs are great. “You and Me” begins with a flurry of uplifting guitar riffs, stepping back as the lyrics come forward. Once the chorus hits “Oh darling, remember, you and me, darling”, the song takes a somber turn from how it began. Fast and slow, high and low, “You and Me” is a rollercoaster of emotions condensed into a few short minutes. “Southern Nights” is the only ‘non-demo’ song on the album, but keeps that same rough, mellow sound. It’s a song stripped to its bare essential, needing nothing more than Ehrlich’s vocals and a few backing instruments.
Two of Light Upon the Lake’s tracks are missing from this album, the title track, and “Red Moon.” These two tracks are already have the mellow, uncut feeling found in the rest of the demo recordings, and there wouldn’t have been much difference between them and their actual demos. They’re good songs, but not the strongest ones on Light Upon the Lake, and the two tracks replacing them on this album make for a great new sound.
Comparing some demo versions to their album counterparts lets you see Whitney’s creative process. At the 2:30 mark of “Golden Days – Demo,” there is singing, but on the album it’s replaced with horns. On “Follow – Demo” around 1:40, Ehrlich sings “Na na na …” instead of the usual refrain. Later on in the song, instead of the refrain, it’s the words “Running home again.” This demo experiments with multiple good refrains, but the album version is definitely the better pick. Tracks like “No Woman,” “Dave’s Song” and “Polly,” are nearly identical to the album versions in structure, only differing due to the raw demo sound.
These may just be a bunch of demo recordings, but they offer a whole new way to experience Whitney, as well as bringing new light to Light Upon the Lake. A new album would’ve been preferable, but having the demos to their debut album is a nice addition to Whitney’s discography.