Released today, Milk Famous is White Rabbits’s third studio record coming off two prior successes. Fort Nightly, their debut album, put them on a lot of maps – most importantly Britt Daniels’s (Spoon). That led to getting the time-tested producing prowess of Daniels on their sophomore effort It’s Frightening. Their sound was still a characteristic, percussion-driving indie rock, but some of the harmonies and progressions made their songs quite Spoon-esque.
The complex rhythms and peculiar chord progressions in Milk Famous not only show White Rabbits’s musical prowess but their ability to make good music that doesn’t take multiple listens to comprehend and appreciate. Think Pablo Honey era Radiohead. The second you turn this record on, the first song ‘Heavy Metal’ hits you with it’s punchy bass and lo-fi feel. They do show their hand a bit early, since ‘Heavy Metal’ is the strongest song on the album. You can just hear in front man Stephen Patterson’s oddly melodic hushed yell that he’s singing about something emotionally jarring – whether that’s anger or sadness is hard to tell. It’s similar to Julian Casablancas’s (The Strokes) impassioned voice; there’s so much substance just not necessarily a direction.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Though some themes are carried through, Milk Famous is nothing close to a concept album. That doesn’t mean the tracks aren’t cohesive, their story lies more in the flow of the music. The way the repeated single note bass line in “Temporary” carries over to “Are You Free” or how the eclectic percussion in “Back For More” moves to the synth on the next track “The Day You Won the War”. This album is full of contextual nuggets and, whether a conscious decision or not, it makes you want to come back for more than just the Phoenix-esque catchy short synth – in White Rabbits’s case guitar – lines.
As a stark contrast to It’s Frightening, White Rabbits relied much more on guitar -especially acoustic – and synth than the piano in Milk Famous. Although their distinctive multi-layered percussion still exists, they’ve made their sound a little more docile. Patterson – originally a drummer – switched to the piano to facilitate the band’s needs so he consequentially plays the keys quite percussively. Some tracks still highlight the rhythmic nature of Patterson’s piano playing (‘Everyone Can’t Be Confused’) and they make sure the album’s seventh track, ‘It’s Frightening’ showcases the bass, a quiet, beeping synth, kick drum, and has a minute and a half long piano solo – one that’s nearly a contemporary jazz improvization over simple 4/4 time.
This Brooklyn-via-Columbia, MO (most of the band attended University of Missouri) band have built up a small but impressive discography so far and Milk Famous only adds to that collection. They’ve shown potential from the start and have not strayed from that niche, quality sound.
Here’s just a taste since you can stream the entire thing on the NPR Music website here.