Max Kakacek starting shredding guitar like a true natural for the Smith Westerns when he was barely past his Sweet Sixteenth birthday. This somehow leads up to the point where we can now easily see ourselves calling him a “veteran” of the music scene, as he approaches the ripe old age of 25. It’s a fair statement, though, as he is almost a full decade into his career after three impressive LPs with the aforementioned Smith Westerns. Since the breakup of that group in late 2014, Kakacek quietly, but almost immediately, began forming a band with a different path in mind. In their hometown of Chicago, Kakacek met with former Unknown Mortal Orchestra drummer, Julian Ehrlich, in an effort to form a guitar driven, Americana-tinged act by the name of Whitney. You may not have been prepared to hear them, or really even saw a sign of them coming, but I can assure you one thing: these guys are going to be not only one of the most memorable debut bands of recent times, but they are going to appear on a bunch of year-end lists.
“Light Upon The Lake” is the name of the album, and it opens with a single that has been floating around for the better part of a half-year to this point. “No Woman” fully encapsulates the full dimensions and overall purpose of Whitney. It weaves in and out of slightly folk-country, light guitar licks, while incorporating a soulful focus in the harmonies that call to mind eras long ago. Together, Kakacek and Ehrlich have made something not only special in the modern times, but almost completely separate from any group recording today. The biggest reason they should emerge as one of the most exciting current bands is because they aim for – and actually pull off, with flying colors – the ability to form a sound that is simultaneously an homage to the great folk/pop artists of old, and a stampeding charge in the direction of the future. There’s a never-ending sense of flat-out cool that permeates throughout every single note of the record.
Unless you simply do not have ears or are deaf, I would find it nearly impossible for you to not include gems like “Golden Days” and “No Matter Where We Go” on your 2016 Summer Essentials playlist. These two tracks in particular paint a picture of a pristine, sun-soaked summer afternoon better than any other one-two punch I can recall so far this year. This is the kind of album that can plaster a smile on your face even when you’re having the most mega down-in-the-dumps day. It’s nearly a perfect set of ten songs, and they float by at a brisk 31 minutes, leaving the listener ready to set the “Repeat All” button on permanent for an indefinite period of time. I challenge you not to instantly fall in love with Whitney. You’ll never leave her.