What hath Arcade Fire wrought? A mere decade ago, a fusion of indie rock with power-pop leanings and more song-oriented '70s art/prog-rock (as opposed to a bombastic 25-minute tour de force, i.e., Barclay James Harvest instead of Yes) would've been unthinkable. But with the successes -- artistic and commercial -- of the Decemberists and Arcade Fire, insidious tunefulness with an accomplished, luxuriant approach is not only viable, it's hip.
Which is not to imply that White Whale -- a quintet composed of former members of Butterglory, Get Up Kids, and Thee Higher Burning Fire -- are trendy bandwagon-jumpers. The songs of WWI are rich with attractively melancholic melodies that are slightly melodramatic, and White Whale achieves impressive orchestral sonorities through layering both instrumentation (guitars and keyboards in unison, with scant soloing) and Matt Suggs' erudite-yet-comforting Ray Davies-like vocals. These seagoing mammals navigate a narrow channel, ambition on one side (the psychedelic freakout of "O' William, O' Sarah") and user-friendliness on the other (the captivating pick-hit "Nine Good Fingers"), without beaching themselves even once.