Cullen Omori and Whitney: The Dreamy Ashes of the Smith Westerns

smithwesterns

Once every few years, a rock band comes along that encapsulates the “forever young” ethos for a particular age group (much like Joy Again), and Chicago’s Smith Westerns were that band for a moment. 2011’s Dye It Blonde, which contained the classic tune “Weekend,” was a hazy memorial to hazy late nights and romantic yearning. It was a bit of a lightning in a bottle situation, since 2013’s Soft Will was pleasant and fun but forgettable. It didn’t come as a surprise, then, to find out that the album was made out of obligation and that it caused the band to formally break up not long after. Thankfully, the brains behind the operation are now putting out incredible music of their own, with singer Cullen Omori debuting his new solo project and guitarist Max Kakacek debuting his new band, Whitney.

Omori’s vocals, one of the two main draws of the Smith Westerns, still retain a dreamy quality on “Cinnamon,” the first single from his impending debut album. At the same time, there’s a new indie pop sound to accompany those vocals, with tinges of electronic and chaotic experimentation pulsating on the fringes. You’ll find yourself singing along by the end even if you’ve never heard it before.

Whitney, meanwhile, consider themselves to have a country influence, but they still have a secret indie rock weapon: Max’s guitar riffs, which strangely fluctuate between chilled out and aggressive, sometimes in the same song. Whitney’s first demo, “No Matter Where We Go,” seems like it’s made for slamming beers with friends on a porch, while “No Woman,” their first proper single, is the sort of song you listen to on that same porch alone, contemplating whatever might be bumming you out. You’ll find yourself listening to both a lot this week, I guarantee it.

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