Frightened Rabbit are a fairly unnoticed Scottish band that have released three stellar albums in just over 6 years and are expected to release their fourth in 2012. Their second release, The Midnight Organ Fight was my first brush with the band, when I heard the track Keep Yourself Warm. This track is a brilliant introduction to Frabbit, but not necessarily the most accurate. I went on to buy the whole album and instantly fell in love.
The folk-ish acoustic stylings of Frightened Rabbit have hints of traditional Scottish music, but the energy of modern indie bands. Either way, Frabbit don’t fall into either camp. The opening track, "The Modern Leper" is one of the most representative tracks that the album has, beginning with a solitary acoustic guitar and vocalist Scott Hutchison’s light voice passing over the top. The track reaches crescendo as the lyrics swell with optimism. Truth be told this isn’t an optimistic album: it’s heartbreaking. It details the story of a brutal breakup. But in no way is it angsty, it doesn’t complain, it simply notes the feelings and situations that one finds oneself in during a breakup. It’s so beautifully observant that it’s hard not to empathise with Hutchison, who drew from personal experience to pen the lyrics for this album. Between the lines, though, the music doesn’t ever feel immediately depressive, aside from tracks like "My Backwards Walk" and "Keep Yourself Warm", but the vocals change the major chords to minors. There are so many layers to each track, with multiple guitars twisting and tweeting, the occasional keyboard or piano, almost inappropriate upbeatness to the drums over the slower numbers. There are the permeating backing vocals supporting most melodies in the record, meaning that fans can even sing along with the instrumental sections in a live show. It’s been penned with such artistry that there’s no point on a single track that doesn’t feel out of place for a single second. The tracks are compacted into 3-4 minutes of absolute songwriting. Switching from acoustic guitars to electric for tracks like "Fast Blood", from which the album takes its title, allowing a more echoey sound for the instrumental. The production on the album too holds its own, making the album sound like it’s been recorded at one time but still each track has its own individual sound.
There are dancier tracks too, with songs like "Old Old Fashioned", an oddly cheerful song pining for the return to happiness in a doomed relationship – “Let’s get old fashioned, back to how things used to be/If I get old, old fashioned, would you get old old fashioned with me?” which seems like the dancey counterpart to "Poke", which is probably the quietest song on the album and because it’s so understated, it feels like the low point of the album.
In all, The Midnight Organ Fight has the highs and lows that all the best albums do, heartbreaking and oddly uplifting at the same time. The music is one hundred percent on point and the sound is so atmospheric. If you like the current indie-folk revival, chances are you’ll love Frightened Rabbit, and if you like Scottish music, you’ll love Frightened Rabbit, and if you like albums for when you’re upset, you’ll love Frightened Rabbit, and if you’re a fan of albums for when you’re in a great mood, you’ll love Frightened Rabbit.
Get this album.
Best Tracks: “Floating In The Forth”, “Keep Yourself Warm”, “The Modern Leper”, “My Backwards Walk”
Cult Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit confirm the release of their second EP in September of this year and their fourth studio LP sometime in 2013.
Frightened Rabbit are Scotland’s last great hope in the current guitar music scene, with Biffy Clyro off farting out double albums and whatever else they want to do. With three stellar albums already under their belt, Frightened Rabbit have a consistency that Biffy lost after Puzzle. While distinctly different to their contemporary, Frightened Rabbit have a very specific and pinned down sound. On 2009’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Scott Hutchinson & co mixed more electronics and outside instruments into their highly successful rock band-playing-folk-music formula.
Pedestrian Verse, predated by the singles “State Hospital” and “The Woodpile”, showed a lot of promise in the early days, with cold, depressing guitar and Hutchinson’s wailing in the former and a more upbeat but definitively Frabbit single in the latter. It’s hard for me to admit, but Frightened Rabbit have really failed to live up to expectations. The album opener “Acts Of Man” doesn’t have any of the heartache of previous releases and just sort of plods along to a synth-led outro that would’ve been remarkable if it hadn’t followed a largely unremarkable 3 minutes. “Backyard Skulls” is one of the more attractive tracks on the record as it drills along with old school church organs and a spiky drum beat. The synths wobble across the three and a bit minutes and the chorus is definitely live setting-friendly.
On the whole, though, Pedestrian Verse tries to explore new emotional territory that just isn’t suited to the tried and tested Frightened Rabbit formula. This doesn’t feel like an album by the band that wrote “My Backwards Walk” and “Floating In The Forth” all those years ago, it feels like a debut from a band who don’t know what they want to play or sing about. While some of the songs explore interesting new territory, the vocals and the production let a lot of it down, and Scott Hutchinson’s cryptic lyrics are more distracting than thought provoking. Highs of the album are the singles “The Woodpile” and “State Hospital”, as well as the old school likes of “Dead Now” and “Backyard Skulls” but the record fails to reach a crescendo like the band did on The Midnight Organ Fight and the tone isn’t set like on The Winter of Mixed Drinks. The off-kilter “The Oil Slick” marks the low point on the album, making little to no resonance as a memorable song, let alone one that meets Frabbit’s standards. Here’s hoping we get another three albums from Frabbit and we can forget about this whole debacle.
Tellison - Freud Links The Teeth And The Heart
One of the best fairly recent songs that encompasses heartache but doesn’t leave you moping. The full band version is nearly tied with the acoustic version by Tellison vocalist S H Davidson, which is also something special, but wins purely on the quality of the recording.
Al Green - Let’s Stay Together
Forever a classic. This song reminds me of my childhood as I’d regularly hear this played by my parents. It’s simple in the best of ways, and the Motown feel will always be beautiful to me.
American Football - I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional
Most of these songs have the cliche theme of being about romance but you can’t really judge me because, c’mon it’s American Football. Probably more beautiful to me on the basis that it got me involved in a genre I had previously written off and confirmed why I love music so much.
Jens Lekman - Your Arms Around Me
This song is beautiful enough on it’s own, but for extra impact it’s worth watching THAT scene from Whip It which I’m sure gained this song/Jens Lekman quite a few fans.
And So I Watch You From Afar - Beautifuluniversemasterchampion
Is it cheating if it has beautiful already in the title? Possibly. Again, beautiful to me for more of a personal reason, having caught this song being played live at ArcTanGent festival which was one of my favourite weekends of the past few years. For less personal reasons, they’re incredibly talented and having never been much of a post rock fan before, this gave me shivers. Music rarely gives me shivers.
The Cinematic Orchestra - To Build A Home
Another of the rare few songs to give me shivers. Also the one song I have not changed my mind on about being one of my all time favourites. I’ve seen this crop up in movie trailers for documentaries about nature more than once, which makes a lot of sense because it sure does fit.
Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm
It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm’ is an oddly beautiful statement to me. What can I say, I guess I like honesty. Choosing which song to include from The Midnight Organ Fight was hard though, it’s best to just give the whole album a listen.
Hall & Oates - She’s Gone
Judge me all you want, I can’t resist a bit of Hall & Oates. Also another song from my childhood, they really knew (and still do) how to write pop music. The belting at the end is my favourite part.
Tubelord - Cows To The East, Cities To The West
Sometimes I forget how beautiful this song is, and then I quickly remember within the first 10 seconds. After having been unable to listen to the album this song is from for several months after Tubelord’s break-up (I don’t think I’ve ever been that sad about a band breaking up) I’m slowly finding a way.
Dionne Warwick - Don’t Make Me Over
The lyrics. Dionne Warwick’s voice. Burt Bacharach. That’s all I can say.