Whitney est le projet du duo de compositeurs Max Kakacek (Smith Westerns) et Julien Ehrlich (Unknown Mortal Orchestra). D’autres musiciens talentueux comme le trompettiste et producteur Will Miller composent le groupe de Chicago. Max Kakacek et Julien Ehrlich, tous deux transfuges des regrettés Smith Westerns, Whitney regarde dans un rétroviseur très peu usité aujourd’hui : celui du R’n’B affable d’un Boddy Charles, des lignes de voix de Paul Simon, bref, d’une authentique et douce luminosité, réhaussée d’un sens du groove qui ferait dodeliner n’importe qui de la tête. Ce groupe fait du bien à l’âme comme au corps, et transmet une énergie communicative dans sa version élargie sur scène.

En 2020, le duo originaire de Chicago a décidé de construire un studio dans le salon de leur bungalow à Portland; une forme d’échappatoire et d’évasion en réaction à la situation actuelle.  Quelque part entre minuit et l’aube tous les soirs, leurs cerveaux réfractés par l’heure tardive et les psychédéliques légers, ils jouaient leurs dernières créations. Est-ce que leurs propres chansons pop — tellement plus immédiates et modernes que leurs origines floues — correspondaient à de si gros budgets? Quand les images et les morceaux se sont liés, Julien et Max savaient qu’ils l’avaient fait, qu’ils avaient finalement trouvé le son de Whitney.  Max et Julien sont désormais de retour à Chicago, lieu privilégié où le duo compose des chansons pour leur prochain album. Maintenant qu’ils laissent le passé brûler, tout est nouveau pour Max et Julien. ‘SPARK’ n’est pas seulement le meilleur album de Whitney; c’est un témoignage inspirant de persévérance et de renouveau, de confiance entre meilleurs amis assez pour se porter l’un l’autre à l’autre de cette saison de malheur.


Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek could hear the staggering differences in the songs they were writing for their third album as Whitney, SPARK—the buoyant drum loops, the effortless falsetto hooks, the coruscant keyboard lines. They suddenly sounded like a band reimagined, their once-ramshackle folk-pop now brimming with unprecedented gusto and sheen. But could they see it, too?

In the ad hoc studio the Chicago duo built in the living room of their rented Portland bungalow, a shared 2020 escape hatch amid breakups and lockdowns, Julien and Max decided to find out. Somewhere between midnight and dawn every night, their brains refracted by the late hour and light psychedelics, they’d play their latest creations while a hardware store disco ball spun overhead and slowed-down music videos from megastars spooled silently on YouTube. Did their own pop songs—so much more immediate and modern than their hazy origins—fit such big-budget reels? When the footage and the tunes linked, Julien and Max knew they had done it, that they’d finally found Whitney’s sound.

Max and Julien are back in Chicago now, sharing a cozy walkup with a little studio, where they’re already building songs for the next Whitney album. Now that they let the past burn, everything is new for Max and Julien. SPARK is not only Whitney’s best album; it is an inspiring testament to perseverance and renewal, to best friends trusting each another enough to carry one another to the other side of this season of woe.

Risks and experiments make Forever Turned Around a triumph like opener “Giving Up.” The track started from a stream-of-conscious revelation when Ehrlich improvised the chorus while Kakacek played Wurlitzer. What began as a nod to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall 1971in an afternoon turned into a heart-rending and relatable song about the ups and downs of long-term relationships. Over twinkling piano, Ehrlich sings, “Though we started losing touch / I’ve been hanging on because / You’re the only one I love.” He explains, “In a relationship, you don’t stay at the same level at all times. You go through periods where you’re closed off.”

Whitney has long been a full-fledged band with keyboardist Malcolm Brown, guitarist Print Choteau, bassist Josiah Marshall, and trumpeter Will Miller backing them live, along with Asrar who’s returning to the fold on their upcoming tour. On the album, the wider and more maximalist songs match the tight-knit chemistry of their electric performances thanks to Tucker Martine’s immaculate mixes. “We’ve become such a well toured band and developed this groove that you can hear it all over the LP, » says Ehrlich. Though the stoner instrumental freakout “Rhododendron” is the most obvious example of this vibe, with its slinking guitar leads and Miller’s flailing trumpet lines, other songs like “Before I Know It” evoke the breezy melancholy of Labi Siffre.

Forever Turned Around is an album about relationships. It deals with how they evolve or flounder and how loneliness can creep in unexpectedly. Penultimate track “Friend of Mine” captures this sentiment beautifully. The emotional centerpiece of the album, it builds to a crescendo during the chorus with Ehrlich singing of an old acquaintance,”While you’re drifting away / Like a cloud hanging over the pines.” Happiness can be fleeting but this album proves that even when it feels like time is turning on its head and there’s either a moment of clarity or crippling doubt, there’s still beauty in figuring it all out.