White Rabbits

It's Frightening

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White Rabbits played "honky tonk calypso" on their much-loved debut Fort Nightly, but they go in a significantly different direction on It's Frightening. Fort Nightly sounded like it could've been recorded in a speakeasy, and while its jaggedly catchy songs called to mind kindred spirits like Cold War Kids and the Walkmen, White Rabbits staked their own claim in this familiar yet off-the-beaten-path territory. For It's Frightening, the band recruited Spoon's Britt Daniel to produce, and the results sound ... a lot like a Spoon album. It's Frightening is far more focused and streamlined than its predecessor, with reverberating pianos and the occasional guitar, alternately raspy and falsetto vocals, and the kind of striking sound design contrasts that typify Daniel's own band. While this style fits Spoon perfectly, it doesn't always work for White Rabbits. It's Frightening gets off to a strong start, with the aptly named "Percussion Gun" bursting in on Adam Ant-style Burundi Beats that make the most of the album's roomy sound. "Rudie Fails" is even more direct, its carefully arranged layers taking nothing away from the charge of its pianos and Greg Roberts and Stephen Patterson's dueling vocals. Best of all is the low-slung "They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong," which keeps the momentum of the previous two songs but takes it on a winding journey through light and shadow (which is echoed later by "Right Where They Left You"). However, as It's Frightening unfolds, it feels like White Rabbits and Daniel may have trimmed away too many of Fort Nightly's rough edges; while none of these songs are bad, many of them aren't immediately distinctive, especially when compared to the charming hodge-podge of the Rabbits' debut. At times, the surroundings of these songs are more attention-getting than the meat of the music; "The Company I Keep" is undeniably pretty, but most notable for the way the band's playing locks together and drifts apart unexpectedly. It's Frightening's more atmospheric moments are some of its most satisfying: the abstract "Lionesse" has little to get in the way of its spy/horror film theme pianos, while "Leave It at the Door" closes the album with a comforting blur of piano, flute, and hushed vocals. It's Frightening is far from a bad album, but this collaboration between a formerly kitchen-sink band and a meticulous producer doesn't always show the music off to its finest.

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