Whitehorse are not a band I have heard of before, but I am always willing to give anything a listen. Formed in 2010 by husband-and-wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, this Canadian folk-rock band have released three previous albums, together with three EP’s as well. Before they formed Whitehorse, both artists had successful solo careers, Melissa McClelland has been described by CMJ.com as having “a persona reminiscent of a female Tom Waits.” Luke Doucet is a former member of the Sarah McLachlan band, as well as the band Veal. Whitehorse also uses live looping during their live recordings, they have also incorporated this into studio work as well.
Outside of this, I do not know that much about the band. No offence to Whitehorse, but they have not featured that much in the UK.
The reason I am reviewing them is that the name interested me, at the beginning of each month the editors send out a list of what is on offer and Whitehorse’s Panther in the Dollhouse was one of the choices. So, here I am going in blind to an album, which has a fluorescent pink cat on the cover (even being colour blind, that is hard on the eyes and yes, I am using the UK spelling of colour), not know a single thing about Whitehorse, what could possibly go wrong?
To be honest, quite a lot.
Whitehorse equally share vocal duties, which is an admirable thing for this married duo. However, it does lead to an album that flows as smoothly as a White House press conference. Both Messr Doucet and My Lady McClelland have great voices, I cannot deny that at all as they can melt the heart of the hardest cowboy with ease. But My Lady McClelland has the edge between them, no offence meant on that one.
Next we come to the changing style of Panther in the Dollhouse, or at least the adoption of different elements on each song. I am all for taking elements of different genres, throwing them against the wall and seeing what sticks. But that is a double edge sword as sometimes it can give great results, but it can also produce sub-par songs. For each “Kicking Down Your Door”, you have a “Boys Like You”; for each “Epitaph in Tongues”, you have a “Pink Kimono” which fails to gel.
Whitehorse’s Panther in the Dollhouse is not an awful album, it is not even a poor one either – it is just so straight down the middle of the road that it drifts past without leaving a lasting impression.
It has moments of tender reflection such as “Nighthawks” which mixes those styles into a beautiful number that is one of my favourite songs on the record. “Die Alone” feels like a fearful moment in the night that has been given form and is allowed to wonder the world, like a fear hungry vampire. When Whitehorse is on point, they are leaders of their genre and could be game changers as well.
Yet I still find myself distant to Panther in the Dollhouse, I have struggled to connect with the album (and Whitehorse) and I am unable to make peace with a lot of the music on here. I admire them for releasing their songs, to put your music out into the world is something that I applaud. But this one is an album that I sadly found below average, with a few highlights.