While the premise might seem simple, its damn hard to make an untouchable indie pop record. It’s easy to fall into emulation, and fall even further into simply retreading the same pop ruts over and over again. Whitney’s Playland come as close as any these days to making jangle and strum feel like a timeless art. While they certainly bring a few bands to mind like Yo La Tengo, Heavenly, or The Sundays, what really ties the band to those touchstones is the feelings they evoke. Gauzy, but not gluey, carefree, but not frivolous, the band comes on like a perfect breeze on a summer’s day.
The setup to the band comes on modest, a meeting of likeminded friends during still times and tour drought. Inna Showalter (Blades of Joy) and George Tarlson (Grandma’s Boyfriend) have their roots dug deep into indie pop, but this doesn’t feel like a mere whim, expanding to a four-piece with a live presence over time. The pair’s rapport is solid, and its clear that they find joy in digging through the fuzzed veneers, patient plucks, and dreamy atmospheres that permeate Sunset Sea Breeze. Where some songs are propelled by hook and heart alone, the band doesn’t just rest on that formula alone, letting sombre strings underscore “Tiger By The Tail,” and “Sketches of Dino.” Each listen through the album reveals another song that could be a hit if radio dipped into deeper pools. I’ll maintain that Inna’s previous outfit Blades of Joy put out one of the most slept-on, yet vital records of the last ten years. I hope that Whitney’s Playland skirts the slept-on portion of the formula, because it’s certainly one of the year’s best and stacks up nicely with the magic that gave Blades their spark.
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