On Friday (August 30), the city of Chicago celebrated Whitney Day. Declared by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, she praised the hometown band for their “extraordinary talents” and lauded the band’s new album ‘Forever Turned Around’ for their ability to characterise “the bonds and love between friends”. Connectivity is something Whitney have thrived on. Back in 2016, Julien Ehrlich’s and Max Kakacek’s 2016 debut album ‘Light Upon The Lake’ was as much about their ties to each other as it was about life and love itself. They reached out for each other and the world grabbed them.
That album resonated outside of the Windy City, too. The wistful country-soul of that album acted as a heartfelt refuge away from the cynical eye of social media and a crackers news cycle – it was an album to lose yourself in and remember what’s important in one’s life. They took it around the world to shows and festivals, becoming a cult favourite in every city. Rightfully so, Chicago are laying claim to their hometown heroes.
‘Forever Turned Around’ finds the band in recognisable territory. The same lush pairings of muted guitars, triumphant horns and soothing falsetto vocals from Ehlrich weaves its way through each song. These songs are calming and familiar, but whereas ‘Light Upon The Lake’ appeared purpose-built for those kind of road-trips that only happened in your head, ‘Forever Turned Around’ is rooted more in reality. It longs for days past than those to come – it’s not morose, but certainly more contemplative than anything that’s come before.
Quite simply, it’s an autumn album instead of a summer album. The sun is dimming and the nights are drawing in – a time to look back and reflect. ‘Valleys (Turn Around)’ gives you the idea: “Every time you come around / Well, the days of the year just slow down”. The stop-start ‘Before I Know It’ relays a “falling rain and a cold wind blowin‘”. Hues of brown and orange shimmer on the album’s most love-lorn moment ‘Giving Up’, and the leaves start to wilt on the instrumental ‘Rhododendron’.
It’s a slow-burnin’ collection that’s certainly less immediate than their debut, and often feels like a retread instead of a progression. But that doesn’t make songs like ‘Friend of Mine’ and ‘Song For Ty’ any less enjoyable, as Elrich’s and Kazacek’s songwriting bond appears stronger than ever.