Calling an album ‘melancholic’ or ‘ethereal’ can be dangerous, even though these terms, when used to describe music, are generally positive – invoking a beautiful calmness. They can also be used to describe music that fits a mood so well, the music then becomes synonymous with that mood. White Dove’s new album, The Hoss, The Candle, rides that line precariously. It’s the type of album best absorbed in the evening, sitting by candlelight and pondering life’s mysteries. To listen to it in any other setting with distractions would render the album forgettable.
Greatly influenced by 60’s/70’s pop and folk, The Hoss, The Candle is without a doubt an americana album. Alex Johnstone, who previously fronted this same trio in the band formerly named Monster, lends her soulful voice again to this new group’s album debut. Her singing always stays within a comfortable range in this collection of eleven mellow tunes. At moments, The Hoss, The Candle sounds eerily similar to Feist’s 2011 brilliant offering, Metals, but it doesn’t contain the same subtle edge…or depth. “Down to the Shore” comes close. Johnstone laments, “I went down to the shore / I went down to the shore / Alone.” Or at least it sounds like “alone”. Depending on your musical taste, you may or may not enjoy the occasional indecipherable lyric. Personally, I think this is fine because each song lends itself to multiple interpretations. “Dust on the Water” begins with a wonderful tease of an intro before jaunting into a catchy pop tune about identity and dissolution — “Where did you gone to / where did you begin / and you have nothing left of your own / you don’t have a home”.
Other tracks on the album have a Fleetwood Mac, even The Eagles, vibe to it. In a few instances, thanks to a plethora of sliding guitar, I even half-expected Mark Knopfler to start singing. The influences behind The Hoss, The Candle may contain rock legends who have inspired future generations to find their own unique musical voice, but the difference between the parents and the offspring lies in their respective purpose. White Dove could be trying too hard in its first outing, or not trying hard enough. Whichever it is, this new album feels a bit flat. “Cold Mountain” is the first single from the album. It’s catchy. It gets the job done. But like the album, after hearing it, you won’t feel the exciting rush to listen again.