Review Summary: The sound of a band achieving a near perfect balance.
The first thing I noticed about “The Midnight Organ Flight” was how quick it all began. By the end of The Modern Leper, as the roaring guitars and pounding of any of the other many instruments present soar, the album seemed to reach a climax with just its first song. And though Modern Leper is undoubtedly one of the best indie rock anthems I’ve ever heard, it wasn’t the albums climax. Rather, the entire album is built like this – instruments that sound larger than life, with quickly and steadily building instrumentation reaching a sound that is both intensely dynamic and wildly sporadic. The singer Scott Hutchison’s howl, along with his painfully honest, introspective and angry lyrics add to this sound, engaging the audience and allowing them to relate to the emotions conveyed in each song as best they can.
Each of these elements work together to build an album that is catchy and fun but also quiet, earnest and at the same time angry – resulting somehow with a cohesive sound. A careful listen will reveal a guitar behind every guitar, a quieter note behind every loud one and a poignant truth behind every bold statement. The vocals are excellent - his voice managing to both lead and carry each song. The fact that his voice can stand out over such lush and deep instrumentation proves how powerful he is as a singer, and the instruments do the same. Most songs begin with a sound that feels comfortable but just unique enough to grab the listener, and as the song progresses the sound builds. Often smaller, more understated piano will kick in, but at other times a guitar that springs from nowhere will just slightly change the pace of a song, and the direction of a song with it. This effect is often reversed as well, as in songs like “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” when the drums and harmonies stop, leaving just a bare guitar. Before long a repeating note is placed underneath it, followed by a spiralling guitar and a perfectly timed mandolin. Every song keeps you guessing and constantly surprised, and it’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Lyrically the album is just as powerful. A constant mix of confusion and sincerity, it’s never once boring. Most of the album revolves around a bad break up, and the lyrics often show a man completely confused and at times a man who believes he is less confused than he really is. The lyrics are gripping because of this sincerity but also unique – every emotion is a little twisted, and so is every lyric that comes with it. Some may find this tiresome however, since this style of lyrics is present in all 14 songs on the album, but at the same time it’s hard not to be engaged by them. On “Backwards Walk” he sings “I’m working on my faults and cracks/ filling in the blanks and gaps/ and when I write them out they don’t make sense/ I need you to pencil in the rest,” showing determination to improve but simply lacking the ability to do so. The subtlety in the lyrics helps create one of the quietest and most gentle songs on the album. Other times though the lyrics are more direct, and it quickly becomes evident that he has a talent for saying exactly what he wants to say, in a way that allows the listener to understand exactly what he wants them to, while allowing the song to go exactly where it needs to. On top of this they’re simply clever and different, adding up to something familiar and new at the same time.
The Midnight Organ Fight is memorable to me because of how well constructed it is, and because of the fact that despite being so unique and different, it’s still accessible. Frightened Rabbit has created a huge sound; but they haven’t sacrificed intimacy. Every element that makes up this “huge sound” is perfectly placed, and thus so are the feelings they convey. It’s one of the most convincing albums I’ve heard in quite some time; Hutchison allows us to relate to and understand his lyrics but also somehow finds a way for us to relate to things that are surely exclusive to his life. It finds an impeccable balance between a colossal 48 minute epic and a downright catchy pop album, and the end product is something great.