Second albums are a tricky business for us fans aren’t they, especially when the band’s debut has set the bar so highly. And that was the case with the mancunians Whyte Horses and their first record Pop Or Not. I was smitten from the moment heard the Stone Rosesey single Snowfall, and for a few months I played little else but their debut. I made it album of the year in 2015 and then (sort of) again in 2016, just in case people hadn’t got the message. It is like a genius band playing the best mixtape you have ever heard as the band career from one genre to another. One minute it’s jangle pop, and then we are heading for Tropicalia and then quirky French 60s pop. And all the way though the standard of the songwriting and arrangements are top notch. It was an album rooted in 60s psych pop and 80s indie, but really could have only ever been released in this decade.
So I was a tad worried about the second Whyte Horses album. Occasionally there’s a Sinister to a Tigermilk, but invariably on album two bands present you with a pale analogue of the things you loved so much on their first.
I shouldn’t have worried. Empty Words is an absolute corker of an album. A re-statement of what made the debut album special, but a progression too. It sounds odd to say it but for a band whose eclecticism is their calling card, on Empty Words they have perhaps patented their sound. It is a shuffling jangly psych pop big on melodies and harmonies but invariably taken down strange avenues with the odd bizarre twist or two.
Take the opener, Counting Down The Years, which bursts in off the back of some twangy guitar and holds your in the palm of its hand for two minutes before a total change of key and direction and an ultra catchy and emotional finale. To prove it is no fluke Greatest Love In Town, track two, boasts a quietly epic intro before flowering into a gorgeous folky tune with a gem of a chorus.
The album is perhaps at its peak in the middle. Following on from the poppy single and title track Empty Words, is Any Day Now, perhaps the album’s strongest melody which boasts an extended chorus that climaxes with a very 60s staccato moment. Then we get a bit of twisted instrumental guitar psych in Prelude before hitting Watching TV which has a droney intro, progresses into full Eleanor Rigby strings mode before climaxing with a disco beat. It is as bonkers as it sounds. Then comes Best Of It, a magical slab of Dusty style 60s soul of the type that Saint Etienne occasionally treat us too.
There are plenty of other gems like the Jefferson Airplane-esque Fake Protest Songs and the exquisite jangle pop of Dawn Don’t You cry before the soft landing of Ride Easy, a gentle floaty ballad that drifts into the run out grooves.
If you loved Pop Or Not, you will cherish Empty Words. It’s massive confirmation of what we knew already that Whyte Horses are about the best thing to happen to British guitar pop in years.
It is out on March 9th.