Whitney’s recent release of demo recordings surpasses all expectations placed onto a typical demo album. Light Upon the Lake: Demo Recordings permits listeners into the raw and poetic creative process of Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek. The songs feel softer and subtler than their full album counterparts, creating a sense the two could be completely different albums.
Following the track list established by Light Upon the Lake, the demos open with the lamenting voice of Julien Ehrlich in “No Woman.” The production persists in muted fashion and the clean guitar and percussion interplays are quieted in comparison to the vocal track.
When reaching “No Matter Where We Go,” Whitney finally call attention to the fact that this is a demo album. The melody feels slightly under-tempo, but the tune is still charming. The deeper tones that present themselves throughout this album almost feel like a warm hug, treating long-time Whitney fans to a seasonally-appropriate, aural pleasure. A common complaint from the band’s first album is that Ehrlich’s falsetto occasionally distracts from the smoother, lilting melodies that Whitney produces. The demo of “Polly” strays away from this trend, keeping Ehrlich behind the beautifully pure trumpet and guitar tracks. This song also showcases a more distinct backing vocal, highlighting a change that occurred on the songs way to the final Light Upon the Lake product.
The demo album ends with one of the band’s signature covers, “Southern Nights.” Similar to their covers of Dolly Parton’s “Gonna Hurry (As Slow as I Can)” and Lion’s “You’ve Got a Woman,” Whitney use their layered style to craft a totally unique take on an already catchy song. The tune fits well into the languid vibes created by the rest of the demos.
This album returns to the humble beginnings and purity of sound that gave Whitney the success they enjoy now. There isn’t anything revolutionary about the demos since the album already exists, however, the project takes listeners into the quiet Chicago apartment where Ehrlich and Kakacek first conceptualized what Whitney could become, and is an amazing addition to their current discography.