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Released: Mar 1, 2010 (UK); Mar 10, 2010 (US)
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Fat Cat Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
The highly textured new album by Frightened Rabbit lives up to the hype that has surrounded the band since its debut release.
The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
UG Team, on april 01, 2010 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Thanks to Frightened Rabbit's last release The Midnight Organ Flight, which was called everything from poignant to utterly fantastic by a myriad of critics, the Scottish indie rock band already had plenty of buzz swirling around and the hype is likely to continue. Frightened Rabbit's latest endeavor The Winter of Mixed Drinks has taken the musical building blocks found on earlier material and upped the ante with bolder arrangements. At the heart of it all is vocalist Scott Hutchison's ornate and insanely creative vocal layering, which often become the centerpiece for the 11 tracks on the new record.
Frightened Rabbit possesses this unique ability to seamlessly combine an older style with a highly technical studio sound. The core songwriting, when stripped down, could easily sound like melodies passed down from generation to generation of Scottish musicians. On the other hand, the production value transcends from you might expect to hear from an indie rock band much less any musician recording standards from days gone by. Through it all, you get the sense that this is one band that still would feel at home playing at an intimate pub.
The opening song Things doesn't hesitate in throwing a whole bunch of guitar effects which create a mood, not necessarily a melody that lead up to the accessible, yet passionate delivery of Scott Hutchison. The next few minutes does build in tempo, and in a way the song reaches a crescendo every single time Hutchinson belts, I didn't need these things. In the final moments the band creatively strips layer by layer away and there are quite a few leaving only a lone acoustic. It's seemingly little moments like that one that actually have a massive impression on the listener, particularly after hearing so many little nuances during the verse and chorus.
The comparisons you could make to Frightened Rabbit are many, from Snow Patrol to The Shins to Big Country to U2 to The Alarm all being possibilities. That's not to say that this is a band that can't stand on its own. It's true that The Edge might utilize plenty of delay, but guitarist Billy Kennedy and the other bandmates in Frightened Rabbit aren't afraid to let their effects take center stage for the better part of the first and last sections of the song. Skip The Youth is a standout example of this arrangement, but the CD is full of moments where new musical layers or textures are introduced out of nowhere. It never breaks the cohesive nature of the songs, and in a way that extreme experimentation is what truly sets Frightened Rabbit apart from their peers. // 8
Lyrics: There is a highly personal, familiar nature to the lyrical content on The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Whether it's the introspective The Loneliness and The Scream (Oh the loneliness and the scream; To prove to everyone that I exist) or the grand-yet-still-personal quality of Swim Until You Can't See Land (We salute at the threshold of the North Sea; In My Mind; And a nod to the boredom that drove me here; To face the tide and swim), there is a humanity present within each of the tracks. These are relatable songs that don't try to be overly poetic, and that is an apt fit for Hutchison's earthy vocal style. // 8
Overall Impression: The terms indie rock is thrown around a lot, and in a way that's a convenient niche to place a band like Frightened Rabbit but it doesn't always quite fit. A song like Yes, I Would includes a bit more guitar gain than in other tracks, but it's still an incredibly mellow offering that leans heavily toward a folk style. Hutchison is a master at creating an abundance of vocal layers within the course of the song (each section having a very distinct identity and not necessarily relating to one another), while the instrumentation in many ways follows suit. There are times when Frightened Rabbit suffers from being lyrically repetitive (Snow Patrol have problems in this area), but in general The Winter of Mixed Drinks provides a complex, laid-back, and highly palatable listening experience. // 8
The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
DonTago, on april 01, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 8
Lyrics: 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! // 10
Overall Impression: 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! // 8
The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
nawmoses, on july 21, 2010 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: I would describe Frightened Rabbit's sound as indie-folk, their third offering, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, had a lot to live up to after the critical yet limited commercial success of their second album, The Midnight Organ Fight. Sadly, the LP is frankly over-wrought, over-produced and has lost most of the raw emotion which was present on TMOF. // 6
Lyrics: The lyrics are once again a cross between blunt truths (There is nothing like someone new/and this girl is nothing like you)and vivid, almost dream like metaphor (scream to fill the thousand black balloons with air). One thing sure to please fans of The Midnight Organ Fight is the reintroduction of the "you need human heat" motif found on "Things" on The Winter of Mixed Drinks and "The Twist" on The Midnight Organ Fight. // 8
Overall Impression: Despite the album as a whole being too glossy, it has a strong backbone (The Loneliness and the Scream, Swim Until You Can't See Land, Nothing Like You and Living in Colour) and is a definite step in the right direction for a band who are about to make the transition from having a modest army of dedicated fans, to nearly selling out the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow. // 7