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To Whitney- A Thank You

29 October 2016

Reviewing music is a very tricky thing. Oftentimes, I find myself hard-pressed to sound like I’m some sort of expert, that at least someone may take my opinion seriously. That’s what we all want, right?
I don’t pretend to know that much. As a sophomore in college, I’m just barely skimming the surface of my academic pursuits, and ever so slowly dipping my feet into the vast, terrifying ocean known as “Adulthood”. That’s okay though. College is like a break between legal adulthood and actual adulthood.

I don’t pretend to know that much, that is, until it comes to music. Rather, maybe just the music I listen to. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing that I can sit and ramble about for hours, it’s music. Listening to music is an integral part of your everyday life, it’s the first thing you reach for in the car, it’s the white noise you play in social settings, it’s the escape that you can take entirely on your own, and that’s a beautiful thing.

At this point in the article, you might wonder what exactly this has to do with Whitney. I’m getting there, don’t worry, just trying to test your attention span. Hang in there.

The past couple weeks, I’ve been in an incredibly rough patch. Not that I’m going to go into detail and further bore you more than you already are, but as a college student, it’s hard to grapple with both personal and academic challenges, removed entirely from home. I suppose that’s the point of college, learning how to “fully adult”, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult.

People find many different ways to deal with stress. Some work out, others (especially my classmates), try to drink them away, but I tend to immerse myself in music. I find an album and listen to it on repeat with my eyes closed, trying to suck every little detail out of every song. This used to annoy my brother so much to the point where he would yell at me to switch songs, as he got sick of hearing the same track over and over again. I don’t blame him, I would too.

In these past few days of high stress and emotional vulnerability, I found myself walking over to the radio station where I DJ and serve on the board as a Music Director. It’s nice to sit away in the music library, surrounded by old LPs and cassettes. I feel at home there, it’s peaceful and quiet, and for a bit I can just sit and immerse myself in music, and all my problems seem to vanish.

Walking there one day, I hit shuffle on my phone, and I’m greeted by The Falls, the second track on Whitney’s debut album, Light Upon the Lake. I had the pleasure of seeing Whitney perform at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, playing a late afternoon set on the Blue Stage, tucked away from the masses. It was a wonderful performance, and as a photographer, I had the unique opportunity to shoot a drummer-fronted band, a sort of “unicorn” in the concert photography world. The stage was surrounded by either curious attendees, or fans of the former Smith Westerns. It was a fun thing, seeing a Chicago band at a Chicago festival, and the crowd certainly reflected that excitement, even at a less than convenient early afternoon time.

I had forgotten about Whitney for a while. Hard-pressed for time, I turned my attention over the summer to my photography, shooting Lollapalooza, Wicker Park Fest, and several concerts afterwards. Music had taken the back burner in my head, and although my girlfriend had made it a point to play them in the car, they were but a familiar name, another band that I had enjoyed but hadn’t really committed to listening to. This past Thursday changed all that. No Woman and No Matter Where We Go I had added onto our radio library early on in the summer, but they didn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention from DJ’s. Curious as to why this was the case, I decided to download the whole album, and see if there were any tracks that popped more. It was this decision that led me to listen to The Falls and it was that one track that led me to say this to both Julien and Max, thank you.

Your music makes people happy.

Light Upon the Lake is an album that is so wistful, so genuinely earnest, that it can’t help but illicit a smile. The album has this muffled sound, it’s one of those albums where you can roll the windows down and crank the volume knob without feeling obnoxious. It’s a crisp, pleasant sound, equal parts easy-going and honest, and that’s what makes the band so unique. They aren’t reinventing anything, but it’s a band that’s so uniquely easygoing that it’s impossible to both not ignore it, and not sing it as it comes.

I’d like to thank you for creating that experience, because on that one long, cold walk to the station, that album put a little pep into my step again.

Whitney is a band that people need. They don’t need to create some “new sound” to push themselves out there. They do it by being genuine, and that’s what really counts.

Do yourself a favor, and go listen to Light Upon the Lake, you’ll be glad you did.


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