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First Play: Whitehorse, Panther in the Dollhouse

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Andrea Gin

Whitehorse is getting ready to release its fourth studio album, and this effort sees the band taking a decidedly different approach to songwriting.

Mostly known for the undeniable musical synergy between real-life married couple Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet, the pair makes a shift on this album from writing autobiographical songs to writing songs they refer to as "anti-fairytales," written from the point of view of a cast of mostly female characters who grapple with issues of life, death, sex and love, all floating in an atmosphere of cinematic desert-noir.

The album continues the duo’s inventive and ever-evolving path: from folk to country twang to surf rock, Panther in the Dollhouse sees them adding new sonic elements, with the help of hip-hop production duo LikeMinds (Kanye West, Snoop Dogg) in the studio.

You can get a taste of the gritty charm of these new songs in Whitehorse's First Play Live performance for us earlier this year.

Listen to Panther in the Dollhouse streaming right here a week in advance of its July 7 release date, and read Whitehorse's track-by-track guide to the album below.

‘Panther in the Dollhouse’

"The title came from a dream. The dollhouse is a place of wholesome, conventional life. It is a perfect depiction of grown-up life based on childhood ideals and social conditioning. Enter the panther and suddenly the animal instincts we are all born with are knocking over these perfectly placed people and furniture. For better or worse, there is no ignoring this creature.

‘Epitaph in Tongues’

“This is a protest song. There is an air of defeat, helplessness and exhaustion, but mostly this is a call to action.”

‘Boys Like You’

“Petulant men (boys, really) bemoan their lack of prowess and are roundly rebuked for their deeply unsexy and pathetic entitlement.”

‘Die Alone’

“We will endure so much to avoid being alone in life. This love story begins in a dive bar and then quickly moves to the back of a car. Years of bitterness and abuse start to pile up, while a house and kids keep her firmly planted. By the end of the song she is completely broken, but still willing to be lonely instead of alone.”

‘Trophy Wife’

“This character flips between strength and weakness. At first she is in control, powerful, indignant and haughty, but as her youth and beauty start to fade, so does the sheen from this chosen life. Suddenly she is desperate and weak. Love is a commodity and her playful promise to ‘never be satisfied’ soon becomes a pathetic self-fulfilling prophecy.”

‘Pink Kimono’

“Our heroes find themselves taunting each other with nostalgic dirty talk, employing the sexiness of motherhood as aphrodisiac.”

‘Kicking Down Your Door’

“Refugees arrive from a place of desperation, faced with culture shock and uncertainty. There are warm smiles and hugs, but there are also whispering neighbours and schoolyard fights.”


“The artist’s midlife crisis exposes a struggle to overcome sadness and an appetite for the class 'A' powders.”

‘I Can’t Take You With Me (Charlene’s Theme)’

“Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman is reimagined through the lens of a Canadian Prairie town, invoking the racial disparities that exist between the settlers and First Nations. A fire is ignited but the unspoken class system is ultimately upheld and the ending is predictably unflattering — not storybook.”


“This song is the flipside to the last record’s 'Evangelina,' which was a celebration of the retired sex workers in Canada who fought successfully to strike down the existing laws around prostitution. Evangelina was prostitute as superhero patron saint of the lonely hearts! 'Nighthawks' explores the seedy underbelly of that world. The criminalization of prostitution and drugs creates a perpetrator/victim existence in the streets while the so-called ’normals’ are all going to bed.”

‘Manitoba Death Star’

“Our bedraggled hero, riding a chemically inspired hallucination, imagines himself a Jedi master and waves to school kids on his way to the north end of Winnipeg where he’ll warm up at his auntie’s house as she regales him with stories of his reservation childhood, before crashing a party at my brother’s house.”

Watch Whitehorse perform songs from their new album in our First Play Live.

Panther in the Dollhouse will be released on July 7 via Six Shooter Records. You can pre-order the album here and find Whitehorse tour dates here.