Frightened Rabbit
The Winter of Mixed Drinks


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
February 22nd, 2010 | 137 replies | 19,613 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And though it's easier now, I will always remember the night that I almost drowned, all alone in a house.

When 2008's The Midnight Organ Fight wiped away the last of its tears, Frightened Rabbit's future direction was already clear as day and to a huge extent inevitable. The critical acclaim their sophomore release garnered propelled the Scottish indie-rockers into a spotlight so close to the mainstream they couldn't ignore it, and tracks like 'Poke' and 'Keep Yourself Warm' soared to cult classic status with a little help from appearances on TV drama soundtracks. Mostly, though, their breakthrough record had worn them out, both emotionally and musically; its suffocated, heartbroken plot and atmosphere had run their course, and nobody who connected with the record would begrudge vocalist Scott Hutchison his re-emergence from the water that threatened to drown him on 'Floating In The Forth'. That same song had him looking forwards, vowing to "save suicide for another year," and there is little doubt that the band's third studio album uses that veiled optimism and hope for change as its conceptual basis.

In tandem with those liberated sentiments, the musical foundations for The Winter Of Mixed Drinks are much less dense and self-involved than those of its pre-decessor. Lead single 'Swim Until You Can't See Land' would have suggested that in any case, and the track serves as a microcosm of the record as a whole and particularly of its differences to Midnight. Trading misery for open waters, the band are still playing front-room indie-folk anthems, but from slightly further away. This isn't wholly a bad thing; the understated, welcoming guitar line is not unrecognisable as a Rabbit hook, and even possesses a new, almost cinematic edge capped off by closing strings and horns. In short, it's a track of evolution, one which gains scope and ambition but loses proximity in its reaching for larger venues. A steady and necessary progression of sound, certainly, and one which bears much of the same character as Midnight, but at first listen it is likely to sound underwhelming, if only because Hutchison has moved on and the listener is still mourning.

In any case, aware of the expectations placed upon them by recent success and knowing the difficulties in recreating something as special as Midnight, it's fair to say Winter is nowhere close to a disappointing release. The highlights are slightly more pointed, the titanic 'Skip The Youth' acting as the record's centrepiece, building for a minute through feedback before dropping out to hollow piano and guitar. It's a flawlessly executed track which proves that the band's penchant for mixing gut-wrenching lyrics with melodies more becoming of love songs didn't only exist when Hutchison was an emotional wreck; as he sings, he sounds fragile: "I would, but I am so tired," crushing a soul which later cries: "Skip the youth, it's aging me too much!" round and round, scared to let go. 'Footshooter', though its mellow, uplifting backing vocals are lifted from Snow Patrol's guide to Making Them Cry Happy Tears, is similarly arresting, and probably the record's strongest melodic offering as a whole.

There's more variety present on Winter than there was before - Hutchison's falsetto on the moving closer 'Yes, I Would'; 'Nothing Like You's straightforward indie-rock; the distortion-soaked slow-burner that is 'Things' - but these multiple approaches, though they never stumble noticeably, contribute to a generally less cohesive album, not helped by a difficult track listing. The band's talents are patchworked across 11 tracks rather than condensed into the majority for consistency's sake, and the quality of the songs alone will never be enough to rival Midnight's end result. The single trouble is that for all of Winter's victories, it's easy to find them and it's fairly obvious why they were put there. The enigma that accompanied Midnight has been replaced with pop songs aimed at people - intelligent pop songs, no doubt, and tender people, but pop songs and people all the same. Hutchison sounds less like he's singing for himself, and the result is a fantastic but all-too-calculated take on a more mainstream Frightened Rabbit; the indie-folk aesthetic is now more accurately defined as folk-pop, and while it mostly feels natural it's difficult to not miss the raw beauty of a more personal sound.

Still, Frightened Rabbit it is, and what The Winter Of Mixed Drinks offers is a refreshing flipside to a band we know can do miserable, and rest assured they do hopeful (or just normal) excellently, as well. 'Living In Colour' takes a swipe at this record's Modern Leper role, and though it falls short (what track wouldn't?) it still hits home hard. The momentum refuses to cease for the track's duration and the euphoric refrain of, "Living in colour, I can see the paint on your toes," makes it memorable as easily the happiest track Frightened Rabbit have recorded to date. It's clear at that point that this release will accompany Midnight in the band's back catalogue, and it does so brilliantly, offering hope that masks the pain, anthems that remedy the drunken laments and hooks that rival any. It may be less complete, less single-minded, and ultimately a lesser record, but that doesn't make it any less important. It will be interesting to see what this band can do now they've got the break-up curve out of their systems, but for the moment bask in one of the year's better records so far.



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user ratings (206)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
robin EMERITUS (3)
I didn't need these things....

Cal Lewis (4)
While the output isn't nearly as bare or scruffy as Organ Fight, it's still rich on beautiful melodi...


Comments:Add a Comment 
NeutralThunder12
February 22nd 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

good job. Album is not as good as previous, but still pretty awesome, still a 4,and still one of the best of the year.

Ponton
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



5784 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I really like the review and your vocabulary too, though I'm surprised you knocked it down half a point. You have my vote.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

4.5 was born from first-listen ecstasy, mostly, i think. plus, i still have my midnight review as a 4.5, even though it's definitely a 5 personally.

Ponton
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



5784 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I agree; the initial appeal of this is very high.

This should be flagged. I'll go ask.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

ohhh thanks

SKIP THE YOUTH IT'S AGING ME TOO MUUUUCH

really think youve underrated this dude, i can see it being a grower as opposed to something that wears off

Ponton
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



5784 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I don't know. I'm a huge fan of "Not Miserable", "Yes I Would", and "Living In Colour", but the rest seemed pretty lacking.

bodiesinflight57
February 22nd 2010



869 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review! Cheers me up a bit after Observer's

SeaAnemone
February 22nd 2010



19701 Comments


I really can't decide on this. too many expectations and preconceived notions!

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

Knott-
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

yeah i know what you mean entirely. it's one of those examples of discography context being pretty important, and it was fairly tough for me to understand what i thought about it removed from the preconceptions i had, but i think i managed it in the end. think.

SeaAnemone
February 22nd 2010



19701 Comments


this is closer to a 3 - 3.5 now, but I'm gonna let it age a little, not overlay it, was gonna review it but there's already 2 great ones, we'll see what happens.

robin
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



4241 Comments


i dont know how much longer i really want them to keep up the sort of vibe/sound they give me. midnight organ was awesome, i just can't get into this. feels like the same stuff over again, which you're probably smart enough to see past! good review and stuff adderz

NeutralThunder12
February 22nd 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

It's such a great album and interesting progression for their sophomore effort, though not as good as Midnight. Still great though. I dunno what's the best of the year so far, this or Immolation's new one. Whatever. Point is, whether this album is a grower or not, it's still one of the best of the year even though inferior to their previous record. "Swim Until" kind of got me worried, it's my least favorite overall, a pretty annoying track, but I was very pleased with most of the album, despite the few structure flaws. Some tracks end before they have done anything really. But the other tracks are KILLER.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

loneliness, skip the youth, living in colour and footshooter are probably my favourites. maybe. album is so beautiful though.

cheers, robin. haha idk, this gave off such a different vibe to me(?!) but i certainly know what you mean by the feeling they give you. that's why i said itll be interesting to see what comes next, because this feels like the close of an episode. i think give this a bit of time to grow on you, as its honestly gorgeous. imo.

NeutralThunder12
February 22nd 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Absolutely what Knott says. It's definitely a 4. The arrangements and variety make it a 4.5 but the song structures and some annoying tracks make it a 3, but the beauty of the record makes it a straight up 4. Some of the tracks are absolutely stunning.

Kiran
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i cant help but feel really indifferent to this album. its difficult to explain but since the initial 'omg' appeal has worn off, its fallen into that grey area where i dont dislike it but it all goes by so sedately that by the end of it its just sort of like 'well thats that then'.

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



862 Comments


123456

definitely prefering mof, but great review anyway man

robin
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



4241 Comments


(to agree with kirg) thats sort of how i feel in terms of finding this average, only its not so much the "omg" appeal of the album, it's the "omg" appeal of the band. i know theres something different here adderz, i just feel like it's the same dynamic and i'd rather be all weepy with them than be slightly less weepy with them on a rly similar album. of course i'll probably love it in a week and 5/5 but yeah

NeutralThunder12
February 22nd 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Needed a day of listening to reach my rating. First I felt disappointed and gave it a 3, hating all the sad and droopy sections, but then I started to get 'it'. It's a truly stunning record at parts, and I really didn't expect them, to surpass MOF, and they didn't, but this still excellent. Great band. Oh and I love the vocalist haha.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2010



7313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

liked this quite a bit on first listen, sounds like a grower. still need to listen to their last one too. excellent review as usual

Knott-
Emeritus
February 22nd 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

sigh who negged



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