Wednesday, May 30, 2007

White Rabbits - Fort Nightly


Grade: A-

Let's face it - sometimes us bloggers are full of shit. Tempted by the prospect of being the first person to hype a hype-worthy band, we overdo it a little bit. So I'm often resistant to even my own colleagues' opinions about the supposed Next Big Thing.

These were the circumstances in which I found myself when listening to blog favorites White Rabbits. These, in many ways, were ideal circumstances. Not only were my expectations lower than usual, I was able to hear the record with a bit of healthy skepticism. I should also note that a good friend of mine knows the band, and she had recommended them to me. This made me more curious, and in terms of balancing my skepticism, the personal recommendation didn't hurt.

I'm glad I listened. Fort Nightly isn't quite indie's second coming, but no one said it was supposed to be, and I don't think that's what Brooklyn's White Rabbits are going for, anyway. No, they're going for fast, melodic, fun rock 'n' roll, the kind Hot Hot Heat used to make before they went corporate. They're going for The Walkmen with horns, or whatever lazy comparison works for you. White Rabbits aren't necessarily going for something new, they're aiming for the pleasure center of your brain.

When they succeed, the results are glorious. The best track for my money is "While We Go Dancing," a song with an irresistible piano hook underneath an irresistible vocal hook, and a song with the perfect amount of energy to improve your bus ride. It's a sweet piece of pop, and tracks that stick to this genral formula - specifically, the cymbal-crashing fury of "The Plot" and the vaguely Eastern European lilt of "Kid On My Shoulders" - make the best impression. "Kid On My Shoulder" starts off the record, and when the "We held our tongues throughout it/One day we'll laugh about it" refrain kicks in, you have no choice but to succumb to White Rabbits.

One of the band's biggest strengths is its arrangements. These songs have hooks, energy, and fun, but they also bring with them a heavy dose of keyboards and horns. "Navy Wives" chugs along nicely enough at first, but then some tinkly piano comes in with the usual guitar, and you realize what a difference a unique instrument makes. The same song features what sounds like a baritone saxophone, and it somehow fits right in.

Fort Nightly isn't perfect - this blizzard of shaky pop is a little too unrelenting for its own good - but it's a more-than-solid rock/pop record, just in time for summer. And if you're after more than that, you're listening wrong.

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