Paul Arnusch- bass, keys, lead vocals
Lyle Bell- Synth, bass, background vocals
Aidan Lucas-Buckland- drums
Nickelas Johnson- guitar, backup vocals
Aaron Parker- guitar, keys, bass, backup vocals
The Whitsundays are the weird and wonderful musical brainchild of Edmonton,
Alberta's Paul Arnusch. The world first heard from them when their compact,
catchy pop jewel of a first album came out in 2008, but in the meantime Arnusch's
vision has grown and mutated tremendously. This time around his sophomore album Saul,
which Arnusch recorded in his own basement over the course of a snowy Canadian winter,
is much different. Saul is a pop opus suitable for the rainiest days or the most
star-filled nights, a resplendent collection of vintage psychedelia and jangly pop,
yet also something much darker and stranger than anything the Whitsundays have done
The Whitsundays' epoynmous debut album, released on Friendly Fire Recordings in early
2008, caught the ear of a lot of people - including Rolling Stone, who called them
"the next big Canadian indie supergroup." Fueled by the generous accolades they were
receiving and a hefty dollop of willpower, Arnusch (who also plays in dream-pop
luminaries Faunts) spent a successful year touring and playing festivals, including
VirginFest Calgary, CMJ and Sled Island. For Saul, Arnusch hibernated in his
basement, not only taking on the role as writer, performer and producer, but this
time isolating himself one step deeper and engineering the album as well. The result
is an album that is every bit as catchy as the Whitsundays' first album, but
at the same time more personal and revealing - these are still melodic pop songs,
but there's something deeper lurking within.
Saul is an emotional dawn-to-dusk carnival of sounds and songs, still holding on
to the 60s-hearkening pop sensibilities that defined the debut album. This time
around, however, Arnusch has let go of the rollercoaster's handles and thrown his
arms in the air, abandoning the strict song structures of the Whitsundays' debut
album for a more visceral and expansive sound. Arnusch manages to combine the
harmonic textural elements of the Byrds, in songs like "I Can't Get Off of my Cloud",
with the sincerity and distress of Galaxie 500, on "Oh Madeline".
He adds a smashing psychedelic pop hit chorus into "You Fell for It",
and then in later tracks references both the strange alien wit of heroic David
Bowie and the carefully sculpted noisy reverb of Ariel Pink. Despite these subtle
nods, The Whitsundays rule over a kingdom that's all their own, a place of
half-remembered shadows and fresh blood. It's music that removes the listener
from the siege mentality of this decaying world.
Arnusch is not without help - his supporting band, which contains members of
another critically-acclaimed Edmonton group called Shout Out Out Out Out,
consists of Lyle Bell, Nickelas Johnson, Aaron Parker, and Aidan Lucas-Buckland.
The rest of this merry band make appearances throughout the album, which helps
flesh Saul out even further. Despite the new direction in tempo and texture
that the Whitsundays have taken with Saul, there's a common mood, an ethereal
feeling that bonds these songs together. To the casual listener, it may just
be another catchy pop record, and indeed the songs here are superlatively catchy.
But take heed: there's something else at work here: inside these pop songs is
something strange, waiting to rise to the surface.
Release Date: May 4, 2010