White Whale doesn't quite qualify as an indie supergroup, but members of the combo have some noteworthy credentials: Guitarist-vocalist Matt Suggs previously performed with Butterglory, bassist Rob Pope was one of the Get Up Kids, and so on. Their know-how informs WWI, an uncommonly accomplished debut, with a minimum of blubber.
Even though nautical themes surface regularly on tunes such as "What's an Ocean For?" and "The Admiral," the players steer clear of cutesiness or tiresome displays of irony. Moreover, the expected melodicism is supplemented by impeccable musicality (Dustin Kinsey's keyboarding impresses throughout) and a willingness to push arrangements beyond the three-minute boundary. Take "O' William, O' Sarah," which sets sail on a sea of guitar and piano, picks up steam during a stirring chorus and then drifts into a thrilling sonic squall before emerging intact once the storm clears.
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Some aspects of this disc are tough to explain, including why these guys sound sorta British despite being based in Lawrence, Kansas. In the end, however, White Whale is still quite a catch.