FRIGHTENED RABBIT – The Winter of Mixed Drinks (2010)

Some albums demand your attention; they have a sense of urgency about them that’s hard to ignore. As it so happens, the words “hard to ignore” fit Frightened Rabbit’s last album, 2008’sThe Midnight Organ Flight, to a tee; that album moved mountains without much more than two guitars and Scott Hutchinson’s painfully frank lyrics. While the songs were simple, they had a depth to them that was undeniable. And on The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band (having expanded from a trio to a quintet) take their sound and broaden it, making their songs even more resonant in the process. Gone is the beauty-through-simplicity approach that graced their earlier works – these songs cut deeper and speak louder. So while you might not be marveling at the band’s artful modesty, you’ll still be captivated by these songs all the same.

The biggest change on The Winter of Mixed Drinks is the abstraction of the guitars, and the addition of vocal harmonies; many songs on the album are wrapped up in a cocoon of guitar that sounds as if it was bred from a cross between Kevin Shields and Dave Sitek (circa 2006). This sound is most apparent on the album opener Things, and Yes, I Would and The Wrestle, while the vocal harmonies seem to rise up from within each song at some opportune moment, making the music therein sounding even more heavenly. Really, the only downside of the album to me is the first single, Swim Until You Can’t Reach Land – it feels too happy-go-lucky, and it doesn’t mesh with understated emotional rawness that the rest of the album conveys. Man, what is it with lead singles recently? And while we’re at it, what is it with songs named Swim in 2010?

Scottish rock might not be invading the US, as their British brethren did so many decades ago, but it’s definitely making an impression on the independent music scene. Between Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, and We Were Promised Jetpacks, earnest, forward-thinking rock from across the pond seems to be something that we’re seeing on a semi-regular basis. And I love it. I mean, this kind of music used to everywhere, but it seems to have abandoned our FM airwaves ages ago. Again, it all goes back to sincerity. Listening to any of the aforementioned bands, you get a feeling the music is simply the music – there’s nothing ulterior or artificial about. It seems to emanate from somewhere, and that makes it feel real. It’s nice to know that there are bands out their who still make rock to that end.

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