Frightened Rabbit "Winter of Mixed Drinks" (Album Review 9/52)

Just over a year ago (February 22, 2010), I posted a video for a forthcoming album from the band Frightened Rabbit. Since the album "Winter of Mixed Drinks" was released last march, I have to say that it's moved me as much as any other musical work ever has.

As I was looking back at the albums I've reviewed since this little project started in January, it struck me that while I've really enjoyed them all, nothing has moved me the way that "Winter of Mixed Drinks" did last year. So, as I was trying to decide what to review this week, I decided to bring this album back to the top of the pile.

I'm not naturally attracted to sad and depressing emotions in music, so this is an odd choice as one of my favorite albums ever. But the raw emotion of Scott Hutchison's singing, the cohesive emotion, and the complete treatment of the thethroughout the album more than offset my natural sunniness.

In her preview of the album last year, Heather Armstrong makes a point of saying that the "Winter of Mixed Drinks" tells a story of a man healing, compared to the downright oppressive "Midnight Organ Fight" (the band's previous album.

One of the things I find so interesting about this album is that so often now, you find an album is a collection of singles. Of course, that model makes perfect sense in today's music market. If you have any interest in the market for music, you should have seen this post about the current state of music sales.

The fact that this album makes sense the way albums used to - as a coherent work of art - makes me love it even more. There is a progression in this album from pain to hopefulness. In the post from the I Am Fuel Your Are Friends blog above, Heather totally nailed it, based on what she heard from the one song available at the time, but it hold all the way through the album.In the first part of this album, the songs evoke the pain of a break-up; but by the end you start to see the glimmer of recovery.

A couple of weeks ago, we were having the perentheme nial discussion of the greatest lead-off songs on an album. I'd like to nominate "Things" in that category. In this song, Hutchison sorts through the physical detritus of his relationship, but acknowledges that its not the things he misses, but the person:

Never need these things
I'll never need them, oh
This is you and me, you are human heat
And the things aren't holy things
And the things bring me light, they bring me
Never need these things
I'll never need them, oh
Never going back, so we can drop the past
And we'll leave it on the floor and run for dear life for the door

The second song "Swim Until You Can't See Land" is equally powerful. I mean, at it's heart it's a song about a man considering suicide. Doesn't get more bleak than that. The emotional kick of this song blows me away every time I hear it. Heres the video:

The bleakness (and the emotional punch) continues with "The Loneliness and the Scream"

Finally, however the pain starts to resolve and you begin to see the light. My favorite song on the album is "Nothing Like You." Although it's a long way from resolution, you can see a glimmer of hope in a new relationship:

While it's the least interesting video of the bunch, it is remains my favorite songs after a million listens. The healing continues in the song "Not Miserable Now"

Though the corners are lit
The dark can return with the flick of a switch
It hasn't turned on me yet, yet

(I am)
Not miserable now
No one knows
No one knows
I'm not miserable


By the time we get to the last several songs on the album, you can feel the pain beginning to recede and the songs begin to look forward. We're still a long way from hopefullness, but signs of life return. The song "Living in Color" promises a future:

Though i dreamt with a rapid eye
By day i hope to rapidly die
And have my organs laid on ice
Gave to somebody thatll treat them right
And as the night started swallowing
You put the blood to my blue lips
Forced the life through still veins
Filled my heart with red again

Bottom line: I hope that you will buy and listen to this whole album. It's an under appreciated classic. Plus - let's just admit it - to an American, almost anything sung in a Scottish accent sounds cool.