Whitney Credit: Olivia Bee

My peers and I spent our formative years seeking out the hardest, heaviest, fastest music we could find. We considered it a rite of passage, a way to rebel against the bloated arena rock and pillowy AM gold of our parents’ generation, much like they rebelled against their own folks’ Pat Boone with the Beatles and Stones. It’s because of this tradition, seemingly ingrained within American culture, that the phenomenon of Whitney confounds me. The Chicago-based band rose from the ashes of garage-rock wunderkinds the Smith Westerns, and they represent the forefront of an indie-rock explosion that the kids can’t seem to get enough of. For lack of a better term, let’s call the type of music they play “soft as hell.” Perhaps the parents of Whitney’s fans raised their kids on Black Flag and Dead Kennedys, and running to warm ’n’ fuzzy sounds is their own way to flip the same middle finger I once did with Nirvana and Metallica CDs. Or maybe in a world where our president is one of the nastiest people in the public eye, Gen Z-ers flock toward sounds that are the equivalent of a hug from mom. But whatever the explanation may be, “soft” is by no means synonymous with “bad”—on August’s Forever Turned Around, Whitney play lush, warm, jangly tunes fleshed out with horn arrangements and the fragile croon of drummer Julien Ehrlich. And Whitney are giving the kids even more soft stuff to eat up: since their inception, they’ve made an end-of-the-year run at Thalia Hall an annual tradition, and this time they’re playing a longer stretch than ever, with five shows in a row.   v