Despite throngs of fans, Polaris Music Prize shortlisting and a Juno Award win that Whitehorse earned with their prior, rootsier rock albums, McClelland and Doucet have veered into glammier territory with "Boys Like You," one of the best tracks from their new fourth studio LP, Panther in the Dollhouse (out July 7 on Six Shooter Records). The song finds the duo (and married couple) getting gleefully sleazy on the lyrics about being a "handsome drunk sad bastard" who "lives with his mother, forever, and ever, and ever!" over a shimmering guitar riff.
That's not the only bold departure from their folksier repertoire, though. "Pink Kimono" boasts a punchy garage rock rhythm, "Trophy Wife" is a sweltering, blues-leaning number and "I Can't Take You With Me" opens with a beat and a sweetly melancholic riff, along with a sing-spoken vocal turn from Doucet, that would fit snugly on any Top 40 pop playlist.
Fans of Whitehorse's more minimalistic, Americana origins need not despair, though. While McClelland and Doucet delve into other genres on Panther, there are still plenty of familiar elements for their dedicated following, be it the desert-hot Southern gothic vibes of tail-end track "Nighthawks" (which is reminiscent of the Handsome Family's "Far From Any Road" that you've heard so many times while watching the opening credits of True Detective except it's even more spookily glorious) or the socially conscious, downcast "Kicking Down Your Door." The latter is arguably the most moving deep cut of 2017; it's the type of song that will help keep this album in the conversation when the "Best of 2017" lists are drafted around year's end.
It's thrilling to hear such a talented duo expand their sound, while also making callbacks to the sonic palette that made them so beloved. Whitehorse could easily have played it safe here, but they didn't; as a result, Panther in the Dollhouse is one of the best albums of the summer, if not the year. (Six Shooter)