Whitney’s USP has long been a particular warmth; theirs was a sound immediately identifiable, a fuzzy aural comfort blanket, if you will. In a classic case of ‘absolutely do judge a record by its cover’, ‘SPARK’ has eschewed this, the metallic sheen of the sleeve that brings to mind ‘90s rave or the pitch-shifting habits of PC Music alumni echoing the pair having delved into dance culture for their fourth outing. It falls flat. There’s a clinical element to the production which feels off - moreso when familiar harmonies seep through, such as on ‘TWIRL’. Yet when the pair do imbue proceedings with a little more funk, as on ‘MEMORY’, it’s not enough to light up any dancefloors. What’s more, for a group so seemingly emotionally attuned, the lyrics feel forced (“You’re the only reason my heart beats” sitting alongside some criminally obvious rhyming in ‘BLUE’) or detached (“We found new ways to live / While the world was burning” doesn’t hit like you’d imagine a group recording in Oregon during the 2020 fires would on ‘BACK THEN’). Sonic shifts are only natural - and these are pages filled with artists having recently reevaluated their raisons d’être, after all - but ‘Spark’ presents a jarring change: not one from that familiar warmth to icy cold, but only halfway, a sort of uncomfortable mild chill.
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