[3 October 2011]
Sunbaked, Phoenix, AZ, septet Whisperlights clearly draws as much inspiration from geography as from etymology on the band’s full-length debut, Surfaces. The seven members trade off songwriting and singing duties (so good luck determines who sings what), and conjure up a shimmering strip of Arizona desert highway throughout Surfaces’ ten tracks. Opener “Ditch the Watch” is all clean sounding and bighearted, and more than a little indebted to acts like Broken Social Scene, the Stills and stellastarr*. With a few Beulah-esque horns thrown in for good measure, it sets the tempo, and from there the songs either wash over you, like the swirling “Turn It Around”, or build to an epic crescendo as on “Lucky”, “Ulna Habenaha” and the grandiose closing title track. All these tracks carry a weight far more than the ethereal band name would suggest. Fortunately, the band shares a sonic vision; only the cluttered, too-wordy “Receiver” feels Frankensteined together by too many cooks (to mix two clumsy phrases myself). Layered and confident, if a shade oblique, Surfaces runs deep.