Sound — 8
The first thing that can be said of this album is that it had a lot to live up to. Frightened Rabbit's third effort, "The Winter of Mixed Drinks", comes 3 years after the international success of their previous album The Midnight Organ Fight, or just "TMOF" to those more familiar with it. While TMOF had a striking intensity of sound that would almost make you weep with each subsequent listen, The Winter of Mixed Drinks is decidedly a bit more mellow in sound and lost a bit of the angry edge. Furthermore, songs such as Swim Until You Can't See Land, The Wrestle and Living In Colour surprisingly venture quite far into the pop-iness scale. However, the mellowness and pop-iness never tip the scale to a fault. Enough edge is present to make you not feel like they are pandering to fans of The Fray. On the other hand, this album preserves the dramatic tone of a whilstful soundscape dominated by reverbed OOOH's and AAAH's, which to me is almost Frightened Rabbit's hallmark. While songs with massively arching crescendos like The Modern Leper from TMOF are absent, there are a few songs on Winter of Mixed Drinks that come close to giving me that same "hair-standing-up-on-your-neck" upon first listen. My personal favourites are Skip the Youth, The Loneliness and the Scream, and FootShooter.
Lyrics — 10
As with TMOF, the lyrics are nearly as deep as the Scottish brogue Scott Hutchinson sings them in. Many have argued Winter of Mixed Drinks is about happiness. On the contrary, I think this album is about death. In the opening song "Things", Scott ponders his earthly possessions, remarking "things are only thing" and that "all you need's a coffin and your Sunday best" in the end. Meanwhile, in "Skip the Youth", Huchtison continues on his theme of death with the line, "All I need is a place to lie, guess a grave will have to do". Then, in "The Wrestle", an unknown protagonist experiences a deadly struggle with an unknown foe where he describes, "They tore me limb from limb, there is blood there is gristle, I'm dispairing!" Finally, in "Yes I Would", Hutchison remarks how "the loss of a lonely man never makes much of a sound". While many other themes poke up through this album, like social embarrassment [FootShooter], Scott's beloved North Sea [Swim Until You Can't See Land] and relationships [Nothing Like You], I still believe Hutchison is hugely pre-occupied with writing lyrics about death, dying, and the macabre. And personally, I love it!
Overall Impression — 8
One of the most important questions that will get asked about this album is "Was there musical growth here?". The honest answer: Not much, admittedly. Is it a better album than TMOF? Certainly not. From talking to many people and from my own opinion, this album needs to grow on you. It will not knock you down on the first listen like TMOF did. Yet I knew that it wouldn't and I didn't expect it to. But if you loved everything about TMOF, you will also love everything about The Winter of Mixed Drinks. This album is heart-wrenching. It will sing you to sleep. The ubiquitous repeated outro-choruses will lull you into submission each time they wrestle you to the ground. Frightened Rabbit is on of the best sounds coming out of Scotland now. You will not regret giving this album a chance!