It's tough to blame White Rabbits for sounding a bit jumpy on their third record.
Critical acclaim for the band's 2009 breakthrough, It's Frightening, came saddled with Spoon comparisons, for the production work of Britt Daniel as much as the catchy and rhythmic indie-rock. Now, taking the leap to darker, skittering sounds, they're dragging former Spoon producer Mike McCarthy along for the ride.
It's either a daring move that lets the band confront comparisons head-on, or simply an excellent fit. Either way, Milk Famous is a strong record that sets new boundaries for the band by embracing more complex arrangements and a fascinating backdrop of sounds. With its icy and raw soundscape, Milk Famous is more intimate than It's Frightening, and well-textured for close listening.
"Heavy Metal" is a twisting bit of serpentine rock, carried by the band's two drummers and funky bass line, which allow the guitars to roam. "Hold It to the Fire" might be the most Spoon-y song on the record, while "Temporary" mines some 1980s aesthetic from bands like New Order.
Rather than dangling all-too-easy vocal hooks, White Rabbits' lures on Milk Famous are the subtleties: insistent polyrhythms, guitar squeals that take unexpected leaps, and keyboards that sound like they're being bent into new shapes.
It's Frightening might still be the better album, but taken together, the two records reveal White Rabbits as a more-versatile band, boldly seeking new artistic ground.