With a name like White Rabbits, you might expect this sextet’s music to be full of studio tricks and flashy gimmickry. On the contrary, the New York band’s debut reveals no frills or fluff under the Rabbits’ hats, just solidly constructed and deeply melodic rock music.
It’s an energetic and rhythmic set, marked by lockstep drum and bass grooves and some stylistic nods to ska and calypso. Unsurprisingly, these songs maintain a propulsive and danceable clip, but they resist lapsing into the well-trod dance-rock territory of so many New York-based bands. Opener “Kid on My Shoulder” climbs and falls over a stumbling (and endlessly repeated) piano riff before burning up in an incendiary outro. “While We Go Dancing” is the closest the band come to traditional indie rock, with bass-driven verses erupting into full-bloom choruses. Still, all the tinkling piano, chugging rhythm and swooning vocal melody rescue it from cliche.
Elsewhere, White Rabbits’ departure from the norm is plain to hear in the skankin’ guitar upstrokes on “Navy Wives” or the Afro beats pounded out by the band’s two drummers on “I Used to Complain but Now I Don’t.” But what makes Fort Nightly rise above the dance-rock pack is an ear for writing immediately catchy songs. And when so many bands make their names being different for the sake of being different, solid songwriting can seem like a magic trick.