This Canadian husband-and-wife duo trade in a rootsy form of Americana that is informed by a bluesy grittiness and a palpable sense of pop melody. Their second album together is a triumph—haunting here, tender there.
Singer-songwriters Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland often trade verses in classic pop-duet style—such as on the leadoff track "Achilles' Desire," and the charming "Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song)"—but their stuff is undeniably catchy when they sing in unison. Such is the case with "Devil's Got a Gun," which makes good use of modified Latin rhythms.
No tune here sounds overtly alt-country, probably because Doucet and McClelland seem to trust their instincts rather than assemble a bunch of prefab, format-fitting mission statements. But the record has enough echoes and shades of that genre to give it a genuine, homespun mood, as on "Peterbilt Coalmine," with that irresistible booming baritone guitar.
Both play guitar, actually, but Doucet provides formidable, snarling leads throughout, especially on the burbling, funky "Jane," and the film-noirish "No Glamour in the Hammer." Piano takes the fore occasionally, too, as in the melancholic "Cold July," on which McClelland sings lead in her delicate alto.
On this killer album, Whitehorse often demonstrate an intensity and an intimacy that may remind some listeners of a pop-rock version of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.