Review Summary: They bear cute Scottish accents reminiscent of Shout Out Louds, the wounded, intimate lyrics of Conor Oberst, and the musical aesthetics and sensibility of Sufjan Stevens.
Hailing from Selkirk, Scotland, Frightened Rabbit was formed in 2004 by brothers Scott and Grant Hutchison. Billy Kennedy joined the group in 2006 making it a trio, and debut album Sing The Greys
was quietly released that same year. This, their follow-up, The Midnight Organ Fight
was recorded back in 2007 and released on April 15, 2008. In 2008 Frightened Rabbit also became a quartet with the addition of keyboardist/bassist Andy Monaghan.
Opening track “The Modern Leper” serves as the perfect exposition to the album and the group as a unit. In Scott’s own words, “it sums up the album's sonic and lyrical scope. It’s not that dark a song but the lyrics are a bit more intense than some of the ones on the last record.” The rest of the album follows suit with blatant, at times profane lyrics. Musically, the album is just as interesting. The quartet manages to create a number of different enveloping textures. From the raging energy in single “Fast Blood” to the beautiful, almost traditional “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” featured in a Grey’s Anatomy episode, the album is extremely moving. There’s just a real emotional power in Scott’s vocals, and the accompanying music compliments it perfectly. It’s a wonderful combination having heartfelt, raw vocals combined with dynamic but sensitive music. I can’t say how many times I’ve driven to “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” and “Fast Blood” shouting at the top of my lungs, jumping around my trucks cab. Frightened Rabbit have crafted something truly hazardous in its emotional intensity.
On “The Twist”, Scott’s voice is as cutting as ever as he sings I need human heat
. Not all of his songs are totally depressing, yet his voice is just so passionate I feel like exploding no matter what he is saying. The percussion at the end of the track is very tasteful, and the repeated keyboard counterpoint in the background is beautiful. Besides all of the vocal led tracks there are also two instrumentals on the album. “Bright Pink Bookmark” is the first, serving not so much as filler but as a nostalgic moment. It nods back to “The Greys” with similar chord structure and it borrows the trumpet and percussion parts in “I Feel Better”. The other instrumental is “Extrasupervery” which is a simple but enjoyable break. The affecting power of Frightened Rabbit’s music isn’t so much in epic or beautiful moments like those shaped by Sigur Ros or post-rock composers; rather, within the group’s emotional setting, the music forms its own unique poignancy.
“Keep Yourself Warm” showcases some of the cruder lyrics on the record.
It takes more than ***ing someone to keep yourself warm
, and you won’t find love in a hole
. The lyrics could be dismissed as immature, yet their earnest delivery somehow excuses their repugnance. And behind every line in every song is emotive music, making it that much harder to be bothered by them. It is definitely an odd album to swallow, but the meal is so satisfying it erases a lot of potential quirks. Your opinion of the album will definitely change based upon the angle you view it from. If the frank emotion is perceived as feigned or idiotic then hating this album should feel pretty natural. Yet if the passion is embraced then this album has the ability to inspire and enchant.
Compared to Sing The Greys
, Frightened Rabbit’s sophomore album shows among other things a much more expansive range. “Poke” showcases that range, turning a catchy, innocent number into an emotional song with its moody bridge. Sing The Greys
definitely had its highlights, but it didn’t travel anywhere beyond typical indie folk. On this album Frightened Rabbit really move beyond the conventional limitations that may have hindered them earlier in their career. It’s a release that I expect will excite different responses in different people. Those able to appreciate it will likely fall in love with it. I am one of those devotees, and am continually unbound by the album’s desperate emotion.