A gust of acoustic guitars render a patient rhythm in “Paris,” the brand new single from Whitebeard’s Plaid Is the New Black, and they’re studded with a country color that will bleed into every other instrumental facet that the song contains. The beat of the hollow-point percussion becomes the centerpiece of the track, but it’s not designed to draw all of our attention away from the velvety vocal that Whitebeard is dispensing from behind the soft strings. “Paris” isn’t as worldly as its title implies it is, but with its clustered harmonies that linger over a bumpy bassline, it should suit the springtime soundtrack of most Canadian country fans this year.
I’m a little hesitant to call this an outright country song because, in reality, it isn’t one. “Paris” doesn’t know what it wants to be stylistically; it’s got a pop hook wrapped in folk-rock tones and country textures, and its cerebral construction makes it seem a little more bombastic than it needs to be. It’s not nearly as acerbic as some of the other songs on Plaid Is the New Black are, but that’s why I think Whitebeard picked it as a single; this isn’t about advertising the record that it was cut from – it’s meant to demonstrate the experimentalism that this artist is embracing with open arms right now.
The vocal is affectionate and has an angst-ridden quality to it that is, to some extent, even more evocative than the lyrics that it’s conveying are. Whitebeard’s best weapon in the studio is his golden pipes, and they’re given the VIP treatment from behind the soundboard in this latest single. Though the instrumental arrangement is perplexing to say the very least, the serenade in the eye of the storm is holding everything here together like sonic superglue.
Let’s get to the nitty gritty of what doesn’t work about “Paris.” To be blunt, I don’t need all of the excessive melodicism in the instruments; if you ask me, Whitebeard does a whole lot better when it’s just him, a guitar and a bucolic ballad that he’s singing from the bottom of his heart. I really hope that I get the chance to see him perform live in concert at some point in the future, if for no other reason than to hear songs like this one in their rawest and most unvarnished state. Something tells me that, even in limited circumstances, the material might be more gripping than it is with all of this additional polish applied to it.
With a couple of small tweaks to his style, I know that Whitebeard is going to be ready to take on anything that this industry can throw his way. His songwriting is almost ready for the big leagues, and for all of its faults, “Paris” is a truly sublime single that showcases the vibrant vocal of this unofficial mayor of “Nashipeg.”
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