"The Winter of Mixed Drinks" is a fitting title for latest offering from Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit; its songs are ripe for drowning one’s discontent in a highball glass, or several.
Coming on the heels of their acclaimed sophomore album, 2008’s "The Midnight Organ Fight," "Winter" finds the band soaring to new musical and emotional heights. After nearly two years of touring behind "The Midnight Organ Fight," frontman Scott Hutchison holed himself up in the Scottish seaside town of Crail to write the new record. ("If I hadn’t come now to the coast to disappear / I may have died in the landslide / Of rocks and hopes and fear," he sings on deceptively cheery-sounding lead single "Swim Until You Can’t See Land."
The locale evidently provided ample inspiration, with oceanic themes flowing throughout "The Winter of Mixed Drinks." Like a tidal wave, contemplative opener "Things" gradually builds to a crescendo, and repeated references to drowning provide a depressingly unifying motif. "Swim" and the album’s other teaser track, bitter kiss-off "Nothing Like You," strong in their own rights, are just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the record plunges the listener into a sea of despair with hardly a reprieve to come up for air.
March 9, 2010
On "Winter," which Hutchison says comes closer to his original sonic vision of Frightened Rabbit than either of their previous releases, the singer is backed by his longstanding bandmates, brother Grant Hutchison on drums, guitarist Billy Kennedy and bassist/guitarist/keyboardist Andy Monaghan, as well as new addition and multi-instrumentalist Gordon Skene. Musically-speaking, the tracks are deeper and more layered. Orchestral string arrangements add poignant resonance to songs like "Skip the Youth" and "The Wrestle." Grant Hutchison’s drumming â€” always inventive but sounding more mature on this collection â€” once again provides the heartbeat of the record (see: the anthemic "The Loneliness and the Scream"), while his brother’s crack-riddled Scottish brogue is at its heart-wrenching best on the haunting album closer "Yes, I Would" and unconvincing "Not Miserable."
Yet all the doom and gloom is wrapped up on songs so stirring, so rousing, that it’s impossible not to detect a glimmer of hope, especially in the background oohs and ahhs, which are plentiful. Consider the track "Living in Colour" â€” a chant-y, borderline jovial tale of coming back from the brink that includes the title phrase as well as the line, "Am I dancing? Or am I simply spinning in my grave?"
It’s hard to tell, but whichever the case, "The Winter of Mixed Drinks" is the perfect soundtrack.