Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland are Whitehorse, a folk rock outfit from the Great White North. In their native Canada, Doucet and McClelland got a great deal of attention for their sophomore outing, The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss, which was shortlisted for the reputable Polaris Prize in 2013. (It also placed in PopMatters’ Best Canadian Albums of that year.) Now they’ve readied their followup to that LP, the assertively-titled Leave No Bridge Unburned.
“Baby What’s Wrong?”, a track off of the new album, highlights one of the many skills Whitehorse have: the ability to create the aura of a specific location. With this song, they conjure up the mood of an old Western, one set in a parched California desert, perhaps. This Canadian duo evokes the Wild West much better than many American (so-called) country artists do. With its back-and-forth vocal interplay and dusky guitars, “Baby What’s Wrong?” sounds like a would-be James Bond theme, if said James Bond movie were directed by John Hillcoat and was set in the desert.
Doucet explains to PopMatters, “The evil twang of murder ballads and latino blues, coupled with the sexual tension often found where we shouldn’t look; ‘Baby What’s Wrong?’ recounts the story of a wounded girl shadowed obsessively by a boy who simply wants to rescue her. In attempting to do so, of course, he becomes the creep she wants to escape. Shades of Calexico, Los Lobos, Cake… and the proudest of rhumbas and tangos. One can almost smell the rusted switchblade fall to the dusty barrio floor. Stray dogs bark. Roosters crow. Melissa’s spaghetti western aria might be too hot for you. Probably. Calm down.”
Leave No Bridge Unburned is out 17 February on Six Shooter Records.