After a successful debut album, there is an expected difficulty and weight of expectation on how to elevate from breakout success. Chicago’s indie-folk rock band Whitney, a group made up of guitarist Max Kakacek and drummer-vocalist Julien Ehrlich, have the unique scenario of being able to share the process of writing and composition and do so with aplomb. Thir charm and authenticity has been honed into something splendid with their second album Forever Turned Around.
On reflection, the band’s debut album Light Upon the Lake, harnessed sounds of folk, country and soul mashed into one unctuous blend upon its release in 2016. The record contained short collective songs with easy-going lyrics that can shake up as pop-rock-sing-a-along if shook at the right angle. The woozy, crisp guitar hooks with harmonics and brass interlaying along its songs. The album was, undoubtedly, a distinctive collection of work and it stood out to all who listened.
Now with their second album, Forever Turned Around, it should come as little surprise to discover that Whitney has not lost their touch with an emphatic return to form. A 10-track album about grappling with different aspects of life; the ideas of facing up to anxiety and the acceptance of it, are themes approached throughout.
Building on the success established three years ago, the subsequent major tour that came with it has acted on the direction of their newest material. Most of the songs for the new record were written as the duo were on the road, such exploration has therefore impacted the end result of their work. It’s a journey which has allowed Whitney to collaborate with producers Bradley Cooper (Bon Iver) and Jonathan Rado (Weyes Blood, Father John Misty) to help glorify the arrangements. That, combined with the fact that the band also enlisted former member Ziyad Asrar to help out, Whitney honed their new material in standout tracks like ‘Song for Ty’ and ‘Forever Turned Around’ but played homage to the foundations which built the band.
Having already released singles like ‘Giving Up,’ ‘Valleys (My Love),’ and ‘Used to Be Lonely,’ the context and clear direction the album is navigating has been established; emotional and heartfelt.
In ‘Used to Be Lonely,’ Ehlrich’s voice carries the weight of the matter while the track gradually elevates with brass, piano, strings and acoustics. “When long day knock you down/when cold winds turn me ‘round/Take me out into the night/Cause the only way to spend our time,” he sings. It’s a prime example of how both blissful and sorrowful the album’s scenic drive of emotion can truly be.
Forever Turned Around still shares Whitney’s resonance, familiar harmonies throughout the record and Ehlrich’s voice is something light, subtle, yet earnest. It’s a fine component and works remarkably as it has in the past.
Forever Turned Around is an excellent listen, it is modest, soulful and reaches boundless of emotional expression. The tone through the album is constant but colourful. The album hones to the listener, intertwining the mixtures of feelings and nostalgia. It stands out differently amongst the albums that have been released this year. Let’s embrace Whitney coming out with the new album and let it takes its course.