Album Review: Whitley's Even the Stars Are a Mess

Australian singer-songwriter Whitley's most recent release, Even the Stars Are a Mess, is a tribute to melancholy and romantic longing. In many ways, it is the flip-side of Ben Howard's Every Kingdom; where Howard imbibes his folk-pop with a sense of celebration and a beachy coolness, Whitley plays with darker colors. His approach to electronic-folk music is more grey-scale than sepia-toned, as can be heard on the spare but lovely "My Heart is Not a Machine," which is full of hushed, bare longing. Whitley's guitar work is particularly entrancing, like the finger-picking on "My Heart..." and "Alone Never Alone," and though his record is a lean and direct affair, he adds the essentials to create a sense of drama. The percussion on "TV" adds weight to the track, and the layering on "Final Words" gives the simple ballad gravitas. Whitley is not a distinct vocalist, but he fills his music with sonic details that lend the material a recognizable identity. His album is the kind of thing that could have sound-tracked a contemplative montage on Felicity, which I mean as praise. This is music with little pop-ambition but a strong focus instrumentation and mood.

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