Whitney display a knack for the nostalgic. The Chicago band channel music you would’ve heard on the AM dial on a melancholy afternoon drive in 1975. Light-as-air vocals, gentle horns, and a soft rock veneer that brings to mind everything from early Chicago, Eric Carmen, and mid-70s George Harrison. Production that’s tight and songs that waste no time getting to the hook.
Whitney formed out of the ashes of garage rock darlings Smith Westerns which broke up in 2014. Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich found a new way to express themselves after the demise of their previous band, and by 2016 released Whitney’s debut Light Upon the Lake. Now, Whitney have just released their newest album called Forever Turned Around. The band is keeping things consistent with their debut, but with more of a melancholy, reflective feel. The hooks are tight and the songs pack an AM radio punch.
Whitney sight Levon Helm and Allen Toussaint as influences, and you can hear that in their music. The bright pianos and subtle grooves ring of soulful conviction, and album opener “Giving Up” display all those hallmarks, but with a Midwestern pop sensibility. The nostalgic lean of all night skates and drives along Lake Shore Drive in a summer headspace come to mind. Julien Ehrlich has the kind of voice that hangs in the air, just above everything else. It’s the key to Whitney’s power. A song like “Used To Be Lonely” just wouldn’t have the heft it carries without Ehrlich’s reedy wisp of a voice. “Before I Know It” is a beautifully sad pop song. Minor key chord progression and tasteful horns give off an early Chicago vibe.
Elsewhere, “Valleys(My Love)” brings to mind late-era Wilco sonically. Subtle instrumentation and playful ornamentation makes this sound like something The Jackson 5 could’ve pulled off. Title track “Forever Turned Around” closes out the record, in the same manner as the rest of the record rolled along. It’s a melancholy, soulful piece of 70s radio. A late night listen, thinking about nothing in-particular.
Whitney captures the sound of an era of music they were too young to remember, or to have experienced at all. Forever Turned Around is a whisper of an album. Heavy songs about fear and substance abuse, done up light as a feather. Sweet and sad.
7.8 out of 10