For all the wistfully beautiful comparisons that could be made, Whitney’s 2016 debut Light Upon the Lake could’ve soundtracked Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with relative success. It’s in part the audible windows-down Cadillac tour of downtown Chicago and the sturdy foundations of home, but then there’s also the cool wash of nostalgia that hits with a college kid’s iniquitous wishes for freedom. It’s nothing more revolutionary than that, but Whitney’s subsequent adoration could have benefited from Ferris’s predicament that life moves pretty fast.
As the band slowly applies the breaks on a three-year touring schedule, their follow-up, Forever Turned Around, is written with an entirely new perception of home and the relationships that ground it. The melodic footings on Light now seem doubled up with the loneliness and neglect of Neil Young’s lost-and-found solo performance at Massey Hall in 1971, in the midst of back surgery and folk explorations with Crosby, Stills & Nash. It’s a kind of pumped-up supergroup fragility, with multi-tracked falsettos twisting their sophisticated lounge pop around the kind of exotic sadness found in ’70s vocal ensembles.
The remnants in Whitney of former Smith Westerns is there in the stately balladry of ‘Used To Be Lonely’, only now it’s sounding like a long-lost relative of Northern Soul. Subtle brass shadings in ‘Valleys (My Love)’ take over the downtrodden 1960s Stax pop of the instrumental ‘Rhododendron’. It’s one for the ubiquity of your chill playlists; every other moment sounds like it could launch into the “Oh Yoko” chorus at the end of ‘All Die Young’. Richly tumbling hymns excel in friendship and familiarity. None of it’s new, but it’s proof that a lot can still be done with a beery-eyed keyboard and a six-string strum.