When it came time for Brooklyn’s White Rabbits to record a follow-up to their criminally overlooked cinematic debut album, Fort Nightly, they pulled of an incredible caper by hiring Spoon main man Britt Daniel to produce. It’s Frightening is Daniel's first non-Spoon related production credit. It couldn’t have been easy to convince him to pull his head out of his own box of tapes to produce It’s Frightening, but apparently he felt like he could shepherd White Rabbits toward indie-rock glory.
Daniel’s sonic fingerprint is all over It’s Frightening, but not in an overwhelming capacity. Where Fort Nightly sounded like an enthusiastic, yet sometimes-hasty band banging out sprawling pop opuses, everything on It’s Frightening, with its emphasis on pushing lead singer Stephen Patterson and his vocals to the front, is whittled down to maximize the impact of the band’s rhythms and hooks. Spoon’s tightly wound and compact pop used to be a jump-off point for describing Fort Nightly, now on It’s Frightening, with the swaying “The Salesman (Tramp Life),” the shimmering “The Lady Vanishes,” and the bouncing “Rudie Falls,” that comparison makes more sense.
White Rabbits never found an instrument they couldn’t use to make a bludgeoning rhythm, whether that’s piano, bass, trash cans, or guitar, leading their songs to sound like they are the work of many performers jumping between drums and swinging madly. Their flair for multiple rhythms is on full display from the first five seconds of martial opener “Percussion Gun,” a song that is a delightful collision of five instruments playing individual percussive patterns that form layers of hooks. A palpable menace is created by the percussion on “Lionesse” even before Patterson’s airy demands and horror-show piano lines bubble forth. Skittering piano coalesces with an army of rim clicks on the swinging “Right Where They Left,” the album’s late centerpiece.
It’s Frightening builds upon White Rabbits’ established aesthetic and at the same time sharpens the band’s shambling attack. It seemed like a shrewd move for White Rabbits to bring on Britt Daniel as a producer, since it would increase their chances of getting noticed by the indie-rock world at large. It’s Frightening proves White Rabbits are worth the attention, regardless of who’s producing them.
White Rabbits have friends in high places. After befriending and touring with the Walkmen last year, the group has scored a small coup by bringing in Spoon's Britt Daniel to produce its sophomore effort. It's Daniel's first stab at producing another band's music.
Of course, that big name behind the boards threatens to obscure the work of the band in front of the curtain. There's six of these dudes, including two drummers, which means they can conjure up an unholy racket if the song calls for it. But to hear singer/pianist Stephen Patterson describe it, It's Frightening is an album built on harnessing that power instead of shooting for overkill.
"After playing that last record live for two years, I got kind of sick of realizing all six dudes were just playing as loud as they possibly could, all the time, the entire set," Patterson told Paste Magazine in a recent interview . "We tried to give things some more space this time."
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