With their sophomore outing The Midnight Organ Fight a fixture on 2008's Best Of The Year circuit, a fanbase increasing in both size and devotion, and multiple sold-out tours of ever-larger venues under their belts, Glasgow-based Frightened Rabbit are releasing their third LP to towering expectations.
The Winter Of Mixed Drinks – a collection of ambitious, moving, and gloriously accomplished songs – more than meets this challenge.
Written during singer/songwriter Scott Hutchison's self-imposed exile to secluded seaside hamlet Crail, on Scotland's Fife coastline, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks is speckled with nautical metaphor and imbued with themes of human isolation, resilience, and the mournful triumph of mortality. Though its subject matter often skews toward the dark, redemption – in the form of a joyful choral burst, chiming guitar line, or orchestral swell – is never far away.
Sonically, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks is expansive, airy, gorgeously tarnished; grand like a ballroom in a sunken ocean liner, tipped with blood and rust, gold-flecked and salt-scarred. String arrangements by Frightened Rabbit's FatCat labelmate, Dusseldorf-based composer/pianist Hauschka, add heft and richness to songs already textured like living organisms.
Album opener "Things" is a slow-burning meditation on mortality, buoyed by an optimistic vocal hook and insistent electronic buzz; first single "Swim Until You Can't See Land" is a salt-water soak in human determination; ghostly vocals collide over the thrumming heartbeat of frustration-epic "Skip The Youth"; and barnstormers like "Nothing Like You" and "Living In Colour" punctuate the album with celebration and hopeful flight.
The Winter Of Mixed Drinks was producedand mixed by Peter Katis at Tarquin Studios in Connecticut (who also manned the console for Frightened Rabbit's previous outing), and recorded by Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound Studios in Scotland. In an interview with NME in October, Scott explained: "We've broadened our horizons sonically and it feels like a natural move forward. Most importantly, it's better than the last one. That's all I wanted, really."
Frightened Rabbit began in 2003, when Selkirk-born Scott Hutchison began playing solo shows under the name, with his brother Grant eventually joining him on drums and backing vocals. Adding Billy Kennedy on additional guitars and keyboards in 2006, the band remained a power trio through their first two releases, 2007's Sing The Greys and 2008's The Midnight Organ Fight; Andy Monaghan (bass, keys, guitar) joined the fray as the band toured to support The Midnight Organ Fight.
Now, in order to facilitate the new material and flesh out the older tunes live, the band has expanded to a five-piece with the addition of new member Gordon Skene (formerly of Make Model). Scott explains: "We want to do the recordings justice when we play them live. Gordon will be playing a bundle of instruments - we just bought a tasty wee mandolin for him to fiddle."