FEELS GOOD TO BE FRIGHTENED

I just told a new friend last night that I don’t like to read reviews for albums.

I don’t even like to write reviews of shows, music, etc. Previews, sure, as it allows me to find out more about the artists, something I usually refrain from doing, as I see music as art and I don’t want to know a lot about what went into making it. I like to keep it subjective. Opinions are like … well you know … and everyone’s got one. But for some reason, I can’t shake the feeling that I need to share mine on this one.

Frightened Rabbit. New album. Holy crap. As I sit here, listening to it once again, thanks to NPR which has it streaming for the next week, I am beginning the process of absorption. And it is hitting every nerve in my body. And I can’t wait to hear it on vinyl … next Tuesday won’t come soon enough. “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” is the third album from the Scottish band, who rose to U.S. recognition with 2008’s “The Midnight Organ Fight.”

In a time where animal monikers seem to be gaining popularity on the indie scene (think Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, Minus the Bear, White Rabbit, Band of Horses, Pedro the Lion, Deerhoof, Deerhunter … you get the picture) Frightened Rabbit now stands up there with the best.

“The Winter of Mixed Drinks” is a hauntingly beautiful, emotional 45-minute layered wall of sound. (And the best part, it’s the first album I am getting to hear through my new-to-me vintage Pioneer SE-50 headphones, so a fine popping of the cherry, if you will. And forever the best $5 spent at a yard-sale.)

With tracks like “The Loneliness and the Scream,” lead singer Scott Hutchinson wraps his voice around such inspired lyrics as “I’ve fallen in the forest, did you hear me? In the loneliness, oh the loneliness, and the scream to prove to everyone that I exist … I’m here, of course I am, yes. All I need is your hand to drag me out again …” The way the words entangle themselves through the layers, slight guitar chords leading to such an uplifting crescendo it makes the idea of loneliness seem like an amazing new adventure.

The swooping guitars and drum beats on “Foot Shooter” match the melodic yet sultry tone of Hutchinson’s voice note for note, while “Nothing Like You” sees a more driving, almost early-80s punk side of Frightened Rabbit. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” is a surprisingly upbeat track disguised as a study of past demons and a tinge of boredom (“Let’s call me a Baptist … call this a drowning of the past”) that continues the record’s use of swooping background vocals. I could go on and on, as each track offers something different. (“Things” … “Skip the Youth” … man …)

Top to bottom, “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” gets high marks from me. The feeling is not one of over-produced indie pop. It is a free-flowing trek through full-bodied experimentation and instrumentation. But hey … what do I know? This is just my opinion, and I’m just thankful to have gotten so much out of it already.

Hopefully you will too.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124085431

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