Review Summary: Great White Whale sounds somewhat like Stutterfly, but luckily, the vocals have improved tenfold.
There's something about Secret and Whisper, and I can't quite place it. The music sometimes feels as though it's been heard somewhere else (Saosin comes to mind), and there are definitely more impressive bands. Yet somehow the Kelowna based band manages to get the job done. Forming in 2006 when vocalist Charles Furney replaced ex-Stutterfly frontman Chris Stickney, the band changed its name to Secret and Whisper to differentiate the sound which the new group hoped to perform from that heard on Stutterfly albums, And We Are The Bled of Color
and Broken In Pieces
. Ultimately, Secret and Whisper's debut album, Great White Whale
, isn't all that different from the material recorded with Stutterfly, but it's rather clear that the band has improved in several areas.
In an almost complete 180 from Stutterfly, Great White Whale
's greatest asset is vocalist Charles Furney. Where Furney's predecessor was on the generic, whiney side, Charles adds a dimension to the music that didn't exist before. Furney's falsetto, resembling the talents of Saosin singer Cove Reber and at times, Darron Sudderth of Fair to Midland fame, is the most distinct aspect of the band's sound. Though Furney doesn't really experiment with his singing and usually stays within his niche, his powerful range dictates the direction in which the song takes, particularly in cuts such as "Vanishings" or "XOXOXO". That Furney's wails largely dominate the mix mean that Great White Whale
's sound that is somewhat solemn, yet strangely soothing all the same.
Musically, though the melodic, poppy songs like "Vanishings" and "Spider Besider" are highly enjoyable, the most impressive songs on Great White Whale
are the slower, more emotive tracks. "Werewolves" starts off in with a soft piano passage, before morphing into an organic, intimate electronic section which brings Templar's "Here We Go" to mind (speaking of which, what ever happened to Templar?). The song is completely chill, and gives the album a relaxing change in pace from offerings like the upbeat "You Are Familiar" or the metallic "Attacker". "My Actress", Great White Whale
's other token ballad, is also makes use of some of the electronic ambience of "Werewolves" sporadically, but is more of a straightforward listen, and would likely make a decent single. Lyrically, both songs are a little on the iffy side, particularly in the last verse of "The Actress", which reads "Just for one nigh / You are my only / Just for one night / I won’t be lonely / You are my life / Your star burns bright
", but even though they don't top some of "Spider Besider"'s (especially the chorus - "Iachoku, Iachoku / I'm not as sweet as I've lead you
") each song makes for a rather enjoyable listen.
Great White Whale
was a rather pleasant surprise for me. Having never heard either Secret and Whisper or Stutterfly prior to the album, I wasn't sure what to expect. But the Kelowna quintet has definitely delivered an excellent album, which holds up to some of the other stalwarts of 2008. The majority of the album's songs are melodic, up tempo alternative rock cuts, and manage to express a sound that, while gloomy, remains uplifting all the same. And while the same can be said for a variety of artists mulling around lately, not too many are as tight, interesting or as fun to listen to as Secret and Whisper. Props for that, guys.