Review Summary: Outstanding guitar-work highlights an exciting follow-up.
More often used when describing the closing moments of a nail-biting sporting contest or the thrilling climax to a suspenseful motion picture, the term “exciting” is not usually associated with music. Yet, exciting seems the most appropriate adjective to choose when attempting to explain the vibe given off by the fantastic one-two punch that kick-starts Secret and Whisper’s second album ‘Teenage Fantasy’. The blistering pace of opener ‘Youth Cats’ brilliantly showcases the outstanding dual guitar attack that expertly guides the song through effective tempo switches, while melodic lead single ‘Warrior (Southern Arrowwood)’ continues the momentum by deftly integrating some hard-rock influenced riffs into the intricate post-hardcore sound.
Much like on their debut LP ‘Great White Whale’, the Canadian outfit are thankfully far from being all about individual songs, producing yet another consistent and cohesive album. It appears clear that Secret and Whisper have found their sweet spot while recording ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and are dead set on consolidating that sound. This is an important hurdle to clear, since the band has come under fire from seemingly all directions in the past. Accused of sounding too much like Saosin, failing to nurture their experimental side and needing to write catchier hooks, the quintet are expressly focused here… Maybe too focused at stages, resulting in slightly less variety this time around. At 39 minutes in length however, this never becomes too significant an issue and turns out negligible as listeners become more familiar with each track.
Unquestionably the highlight of ‘Teenage Fantasy’ is the guitar-work on show. Reminiscent of Saosin’s critically acclaimed ‘Translating The Name’ EP and Thursday’s latest album ‘Common Existence’, it is difficult not to be drawn into the ethereal melodies that float through songs such as ‘Tiny Sparkle’, ‘Edge of Wilderness’ and ‘Star Blankets’. Penultimate track ‘Whale Bones’ makes it clear that Jason Ciolli and David Ecker are just as adept when the pace is slowed, while the shimmering effect on atmospheric closer ‘Silver Mountain’ is especially rewarding. Those looking for something a little more metallic sounding will be pleased with ‘Famous For A Century’, a track which also demonstrates how Secret and Whisper are functioning as a well-oiled machine here, with the rhythm section of Jordan Chase and Ryan Loerke more than capably fulfilling their roles.
Always a point of contention, lead vocalist Charles Furney is an acquired taste that will grate on some listeners. Owning a piercing voice, he has that uncanny quality of knowing when he is about to stumble into the territory of a high-pitched shrill, and paring his vocals back appropriately. Unfortunately, his renowned cryptic lyrics lack that sense of mystery and anticipation which made their debut so captivating. Furthermore, accusations of failing to capitalize on the opportunity for a killer vocal hook will continue to haunt the band, since moments such as the backing vocals of ‘Bedroom Galaxy’ and chorus of ‘Edge of Wilderness’ both could have used an anthemic sing-along. Other than the aforementioned opening duo, ‘Star Blankets’ comes the closest, with a chorus that accentuates the passion in Furney’s voice.
Ultimately, ‘Teenage Fantasy’ is unlikely to gain or lose too many fans for Secret and Whisper… Those who enjoyed ‘Great White Whale’ will undoubtedly be satisfied with this follow-up, while the cynics will also not be swayed. Marginally inferior to the debut LP, this may be less immediate due to a slight reduction in variety and catchiness, but its phenomenal guitar-work goes a long way to making up for those shortcomings. Immaculately produced, energetic and without filler, ‘Teenage Fantasy’ establishes Secret and Whisper as a force to be reckoned with on the post-hardcore scene… A band that has not only shaken their tags, but arguably surpassed them.
Recommended Tracks: Warrior (Southern Arrowwood), Star Blankets, Youth Cats & Whale Bones.