Reflecting On: Secret & Whisper – Teenage Fantasy

Secret & Whisper has long been one of my favorite underrated bands. You’ll probably remember in 2018 that I wrote a reflection on their first album, Great White Whale. My obsession with Secret & Whisper actually began when I was listening to the (original) Tooth and Nail podcast. 

You can buy or stream Teenage Fantasy on Apple Music.

Before there was the “Labeled” podcast, and really, before podcasts became a major media force, Tooth and Nail had a podcast that showcased new music they were releasing. They also had a series of video-casts called “Tooth and Nail TV,” which played new music videos from their artists. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the Secret & Whisper episode online, but like MySpace and Limewire, some things of music’s past are meant to be remembered fondly. 

The episode of the podcast talked about the album “Teenage Fantasy.” They went through the whole album after the release and interviewed a couple of the members. It’s also the only time I had heard Tooth and Nail push the band’s music. I often wonder what would have happened if the label had given the band the attention their music deserved.

The band eventually went on hiatus the year after “Teenage Fantasy” was released, citing difficulties balancing band and family, and, with no disrespect to what was obviously seems to be a right and noble choice by the band, there are times when I wonder if another reason they didn’t keep it up was just the label’s indifference to advertising. 

Teenage Fantasy (and of course, Great White Whale) is one of Tooth and Nail’s crown jewels, in my opinion. It is easily one of the label’s most imaginative and thought-provoking projects. I feel like Tooth and Nail used Secret & Whisper as their token soaring-lead-vocal-hardcore outfit to compete with the Saosin‘s of the day.

What made Secret & Whisper different was the obvious musical and vocal genius of the band, highlighted by subject matter ranging from Native American life (“Warrior”) to Judaism in the age of Nazis (“Bedroom Galaxy”) to aliens (“Star Blankets”). While other bands were still focusing on relationships and general pop punk fare, Secret & Whisper really made an effort to keep their art out of the box in what could have been a groundbreaking album for the label and the genre as a whole.

It’s hard to say whether Great White Whale or Teenage Fantasy is the better offering from the band. I feel like they found their groove with the latter album. Great White Whale has an obvious deficit in production value to Teenage Fantasy, and the writing, while perfect for the theme of that album, is overshadowed by the deeply personal lyricism of Teenage Fantasy. And it all comes back around to the idea of untapped potential. Who’s to say what would’ve come of a third project from the band?

What’s kept me listening to the album is that whenever I play it, I’m transported back to that time in 2010 when I first heard it. It’s consistently fresh for me, even 10 years later.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Secret & Whisper – Great White Whale

I was too young to listen to Great White Whale when it was first released in 2008. I remember, though, being about 14 and seeing the music video for “XOXOXO” and being utterly intrigued by Secret & Whisper.

Since that first experience with “XOXOXO”, both of Secret & Whisper’s albums have become staples of mine. I look back at the release of Great White Whale with fondness, because they’re one of the bands that helped me form my own taste in music.

You can buy Great White Whale on iTunes.

My parents listened to a lot of acoustic music – James Taylor, Marc Cohn, etc. They’re also very conservative when it comes to music and that’s mostly what I grew up with. I was about 13 when I got my first “hard rock” album. It was Innocence and Instinct by the rock band Red. That, along with bands like Relient K, started me on a path of music discovery.

Because of Secret & Whisper, I became an avid follower of label Tooth and Nail Records, coming in toward the end of what I consider to be the label’s “golden age.” Bands like Underoath, Emery and Anberlin are still favorites to this day, as well as smaller bands like Secret & Whisper and Number One Gun.

My parents weren’t a huge fan of me listening to rock and alternative music, so I guess I used Secret & Whisper as a sort of compromise. Great White Whale leaned on heavy guitars and post-hardcore breakdowns while forgoing harsh, screaming vocals that would have certainly been deemed controversial. Charles Finn’s singing voice is about the opposite of harsh, actually. As far as I’m concerned, he’s still unmatched as one of the best vocalists to come from the scene.

Even aside from what it means to me, personally, I believe Great White Whale is underrated, showcasing early signs of a talented and unique band. That originality, of course, means it wasn’t everyone’s favorite album, but it sounded so interesting and new to me that I fell in love with it. I have yet to find a band that’s given me that same feeling. (I’m sure that’s partly due to the teenage angst though.)

A decade later, I believe Great White Whale still holds up as one of the most unappreciated ventures in recent rock history. Interesting lyricism with a real storytelling aspect, complicated musical composition, and soaring vocals are an example of what made a band like Secret & Whisper so great.

The rock genre allows artists to experiment in virtually any way they want. The only downfall to Secret & Whisper is that this was their first of only two albums. The band would take an indefinite hiatus in 2011 after the release of Teenage Fantasy – a break that continues to this day. Maybe they’ve kept a tiny sparkle of their potential alive and will release more music for us to enjoy one day. In the meantime, Great White Whale remains a great catch.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.