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Frightened Rabbit - Painting of a Panic Attack (Atlantic)

13 April 2016

13 years ago, we had the pleasure of being introduced to a small indie band from Selkirk, Scotland, called Frightened Rabbit. It was a solo project, initially, for lead vocalist Scott Hutchison, releasing Sing the Greys in 2006. Signed to Fat Cat Records a year later, and picking up guitarist Bill Kennedy, the band gained momentum, beginning extensive touring, and getting signed to Atlantic Records just 3 years later. It was then that 2 EP’s came out, A Frightened Rabbit EP, and State Hospital which introduced me to the band in 2012.

Of course, there’s more history to look at, but that’s not why I decided to write this review, nor why I decided to add a brief background. I added it to give perspective, to give an idea of how a group rose from a solo project in 2003, to peaking to #9 on the UK Albums Chart, and recording their 5th studio album with legendary producer Aaron Dessner. Although I reviewed Die Like a Rich Boy earlier, such a perfunctory review of a single doesn’t do the album justice, and that’s what I’ll attempt to do.

13 years ago, we saw a band that had a niche, one that occupied a space filled with loud, loathing anthems of alcohol-fueled regret, and yet, not for a second were we disillusioned. 3 years later, all that drive and yearning was plunged into another album, which then led us to Pedestrian Verse. It was then that we saw that little band from Scotland latch onto an identity, a statement that declared “This is who we are”, and it was beautiful in a way, because we were all comfortable with that. It’s when Hutchison moved to Los Angeles is where we see this album form, the seed of an idea grow in the discomfort and the unfamiliarity of a country 13 hours away.

Let me take the time to air this out now, yes, it is easy to compare this album to The National, and let’s take a minute to delve into that. Yes, their career path is similar, and yes, the album was produced by Aaron Dessner, but to qualify the two as similar is to look away from what makes this album unique. It derives from the almost cliché forlorn-ness that Hutchison made his mark on, and while critics like to use this as a way to make the album of similar quality to that of other bands, I digress, this change is a good thing. It’s angrier, it’s a louder proclamation, and instead of retreating within itself, the album reflects beautifully the emotions just below the surface, the minute, subtle emotion that hides itself from the public eye.

Is it their best? That’s up to interpretation. What it is, is different. To some, it’s a step back, but it’s a step in a different direction, and although it’s not as urgent or powerful as records past, it’s a statement, and certainly one that deserves to be listened to.

 

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