“If you don’t stare at the dark, you can never feel bleak–life starts to lose its taste” sings Scott Hutchison on Frightened Rabbit’s new album Winter of Mixed Drinks. That line sums up the “mission statement” of Frightened Rabbit nicely; the music might sound sad it first, but boy is it beautiful.
Frightened Rabbit’s first release after 2008’s excellent The Midnight Organ Fight shows the band taking a more refined direction in recording and in lyric writing, culminating in a record that’s just as satisfying as the last one. The songs are still catchy, but now the band has put aside simple folk compositions and embraces full band arrangements. Take the CD’s opener “Things”, it begins with one note, but broadens into a swirling noise, finally culminating into a loud chorus that shows off the excellent drumming by Grant Hutchinson.
Perhaps the true highlight of Frightened Rabbit is their thoughtful and honest lyrics—Mixed Drinks certainly delivers. Organ Fight was about bad breakups and bad sex; Winter of Mixed Drinks’ meaning is harder to pin down. Hutchinson sings about broader themes like death, depression, and trying to make the best out of life; drowning is a motif. All these grandiose themes are sung in Hutchinson’s Scottish growl, so Frightened Rabbit never sounds mopey or boring (like some American sad-bands sometimes do), but instead like men confronted with life and struggling to accept it.
“I am not miserable!” Hutchison sings on the aptly named track “Not Miserable”. The music is bigger and less focused, the melodies are broader and sweeping, and the lyrics are still thoughtful and reflective. Sometimes a band loses their edge when they start feeling happy (looking at you Bright Eyes), but Frightened Rabbit certainly has not. This album is an absolute must listen, and gets my highest recommendation.
Key Tracks: “The Wrestle”, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”, “Not Miserable”
Recommended if you like: The Twilight Sad, Belle & Sebastian, and Elliott Smith.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-½
W = Poor
W-P = OK
W-P-G = Good
W-P-G-U = Great!