Full disclosure: Frightened Rabbit has recently become one of my favorite modern bands so this review is to serve as both a recommendation of their new album, Pedestrian Verse, and also an introduction to a band that I think more people should be listening to. Pedestrian Verse is the fourth album by Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit and was released back in February of this year on Atlantic Records.
For the unfamiliar, Frightened Rabbit was formed by two brothers in Scotland in 2003. Their first album, Sing the Greys, at first only had a limited release in 2006 but was remastered and released in the US the following year, once the band signed to a more established indie record label. In 2008, Frightened Rabbit released their second album, The Midnight Organ Fight, to widespread critical acclaim. Their popularity in the UK skyrocketed after that album, but they were still relatively unknown in the US. That would change in 2010 after their third album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, was released. That year, Frightened Rabbit made several appearances on US television, supported Death Cab for Cutie on their North American tour, and eventually signed with Atlantic Records.
The main ingredient in Frightened Rabbit’s recipe of success thus far has been the lyrics. Whenever Scott Hutchinson, the lead singer and principle songwriter, puts pen to paper he aims straight for the listener’s heart by speaking from his own. At his best, Hutchinson uses subjects like life and death, spirituality, and loneliness, and approaches them with a bit of melancholy mixed with his own self-deprecating humor. His lyrics are poetic, but at the same time straightforward and he delivers them with an achy Scottish accent that makes them really hit home.
The guys in Frightened Rabbit also have some impressive musical chops to show off. On The Midnight Organ Fight, the band’s sound could be described as indie-folk; they used standard rock tools from guitars (of the acoustic and effect-laden electric variety) drums, and basses. They also incorporated organs, banjos, fiddles, and maybe even a dash of mandolin. The songs on that album range from bluegrass-like stompers, to ballads with a hint of a dance beat, to straightforward rockers, and everything in between.
On The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band put less emphasis on the folk instrumentation and more on the guitar effects and organs. My introduction to Frightened Rabbit was through this album and I quickly fell in love with the cool things they were doing musically. The songs here sound more polished, epic, and musically catchy; the one downside is that they seemed to sacrifice lyrical quality.
On Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit appears to have taken lessons they learned from the past two albums and applied them to this one. Compared to their last album the songs here are a bit smaller, but they’ve taken that sparkling production and applied it to a group of well-written and affective songs. It’s clear they put that extra major label money to good use without compromising the elements that made them stand out in the first place. Some highlights from this album include: “Backyard Skulls,” a catchy up-tempo song about people unsuccessfully trying to get rid of their secrets, mistakes, and regrets; “Nitrous Gas,” a slow song about a man wanting to experience an artificial happiness through the use of laughing gas; and “The Woodpile,” a song about helplessness, with a powerful chorus.
As you can see, these aren’t party songs or songs you’d put on while jogging (although some of the faster ones might work). This album is gloomy enough to be the right thing to hear after a bad breakup or a shitty day, but also interesting enough to listen to on a long car ride, no matter what emotion you’re currently feeling. I strongly suggest giving this album a listen and checking out the rest of Frightened Rabbit’s catalog, especially if you enjoy bands like The National, The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, or if you’re really fond of Scottish accents like I am.
Here’s their song “The Woodpile”