Three years after the release of their debut album, Light Upon the Lake, Chicago–based band Whitney came out with their second album, Forever Turned Around, on Aug. 30. Drummer Max Kakacek and guitarist Julien Ehrlich formed Whitney shortly after breaking off from their original band, Smith Westerns, in 2014. The success of Whitney’s Light Upon the Lake led to a two–year international tour that recently came to an end. Much like in Light Upon the Lake, Forever Turned Around celebrates bittersweet memories and hard truths.
This is apparent just from looking at the track list, filled with songs like “Giving Up,” “Used To Be Lonely,” and “My Life Alone.” The first track, “Giving Up,” begins with an easygoing piano melody paired with soft drums. However, its lyrics reflect an unwillingness to let go of something that's slowly slipping away. Ehrlich sings, “Tears are falling one by one / I can feel you giving up.”
This story carries into the next track, “Used To Be Lonely,” which showcases a more somber melody paired with lyrics like “I'm afraid you're letting go / 'Cause the only life I've ever known / Used to be lonely.” The overarching story told in Forever Turned Around is a much harder pill to swallow than that in Light Upon the Lake. Even the album cover, filled with muddled dark browns and greens, gives off a sense of melancholy.
In Forever Turned Around, Whitney continues to expertly incorporate trumpets, piano, and drums to create their distinctively mellow, indie sound. In a sense, Ehrlich’s high pitched falsetto voice feels like its own instrument. Although the brass sounds emphasize the melody on most tracks, they don't overpower any of the other instruments, and instead complement Kakacek’s drumming. The mellow musicality is interwoven with upbeat and hopeful elements, which contrasts with the theme of reluctance to grow out of the past.
Whitney’s sophomore album is a gentle and smooth collection of pieces that feels like they’re meant to be played while sitting on a porch on a late summer night. Fleeting moments and nostalgia are perfectly curated on Forever Turned Around, especially in tracks like “Song for Ty,” with the youthful lyrics, “Anything could happen.”
That said, the album doesn’t showcase any experimentation with the band's sound or style. At times, it feels like an extension of their debut album, but an older and more mature version. If Whitney wanted to solidify their distinctive indie sound with Forever Turned Around, then they definitely succeeded. Now the strength of their future projects will be determined by their willingness to experiment with new elements while still maintaining their bittersweet and soulful character.