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Frightened Rabbit: The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Frightened Rabbits

The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Fat Cat Records

March 9, 2010 [US]

Texture.  For better or for worse, that is the key sonic element on Frightened Rabbit’s third studio album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, released in the U.S. on March 9 by Fat Cat Records.

Frightened Rabbit songs have always been characterized by a building crescendo of sound and emotion, but on this album the effect is less organic. Instead, the layering of instruments is more deliberate, and while this may have been the aim of songwriter Scott Hutchison and producer Peter Katis, it lacks immediacy and keeps the listener at arm’s length.  

On “Things,” the album opens with fuzzy guitar reverb straight out of the early ‘90s, and while it swells with cello and violin, it feels like a wave that never crashes, ironically appropriate for an album that was written on the coastal town of Crail, Fife. 

The Scottish indie band must have been more than a little daunted upon trying to follow up the masterpiece album The Midnight Organ Fight, but singer/songwriter Scott Hutchison gets a lot of things right as he finds new experiences to mine, scratchily singing of rebirth and renewal, regret and recompense.

“Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” the first single and arguably the best song on The Winter of Mixed Drinks, showcases what can happen when texture works.  The background vocals buoy Hutchison’s plaintive but confident lyric – “Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?” – the keys tinkle at just the right times, and even the cabasa and handclaps are subtle enough to allow the listener to let go of the past along with the song’s protagonist. 

This pattern of successful and off-putting textures seesaws throughout the album, and while the gap gets narrower upon repeated listens, the songs rarely capitalize on their own momentum.  High points include “Living in Colour,” “Not Miserable,” and second single “Nothing Like You,” which features the strange lyric “She was not the cure for cancer” which may just compare an ex-girlfriend to a tumor in a way that actually makes sense. 

If you were already a fan of Frightened Rabbit, you will enjoy this album, and it does have enough high points to engage new fans.  There are beautiful moments on The Winter of Mixed Drinks, and the emotional maturity of the subject matter is refreshing and rewarding.  Frightened Rabbit has taken a step forward away from the wall on this album, and may even ask mainstream success to dance sometime soon.       

3.5 / 5 Stars

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