Archer Prewitt set some high expectations for himself. After spending recent years as the sublime vocal mastermind in the seminal Chicago post-rock combo, The Sea and Cake, Prewitt returns to the spotlight with a new solo effort, White Sky (Carrot Top Records). Unfortunately, Prewitt dives deep into the deceptively placid sea of blissful pop music, only to come back to the surface rather empty-handed.
Archer Prewitt stands apart from a bulk of his Chicago contemporaries by priding himself on an accomplished ability for songcraft. The scene’s concern for texture is made secondary by Prewitt’s need to find a good hook. Still, he uses the textural elements of his musical coterie to push his hushed pop songs to a new level. This is most evident on works such as Summer’s End. A gentle flute loop ushers in Prewitt’s softened vocals, which soon give way to a sweeping string accompaniment. These elements fully culminate when Prewitt boldly questions, What about the things that count as life?/What about the things that make a life? The effect is mesmerizing.
Unfortunately, moments like this are few and far between on White Sky. Prewitt yearns to convey a subdued catchiness but fails to articulate it correctly. Last Summer Days breezes right past the listener without asking for any attention.
Prewitt also takes another misguided step in the realm of production. White Sky suffers from a distracting sense of tonality that permeates the entire body of work. Horns that attempt to warm-up the landscape of songs like Raise on High and Shake only create tinny blasts of treble that upset Prewitt’s humble intentions. This is a big surprise considering Prewitt’s lush sonic work in The Sea and Cake.
White Sky disappoints not solely in its songwriting or textural personality, but in Prewitt’s inability to get these two elements to cooperate with one another. Then again, genius songwriting should be able to survive any kind of production. Until then, listeners are left with a sometimes pleasant, sometimes awkward collection of ballads that longs for resolution.