By Andrew Howie
I first heard about Scottish group Frightened Rabbit back in college, with their album The Winter of Mixed Drinks. I found it to be a mostly-okay, not-too-interesting-but-still-listenable album. No real highlights, but no real valleys either. Just some solid indie fuzz-pop with the typical trappings of the genre: high-pitched vocals soaked in reverb, swirling, distorted guitars, electronically-tinged drums, and mostly innocuous vocals full of lyrics about sadness, existentialism, etc. Typical indie fair: not too bad, not too good. Just pretty alright.
That trend continues with their latest release, Painting of a Panic Attack. Full, layered keyboards and washed guitars create a soothing sound that wouldn’t be out of place in an independent movie featuring shots out car windows during the rain. It’s a moody album for sure, but not so overbearing as to be depressing. The aforementioned layers of guitars and keys are not too dense either, so it never really gets too overwhelming.
While the music itself is pleasant enough, the vocals are the strong point on this album. I generally don’t enjoy vocals that have been dunked into reverb to the point where you can’t understand the vocalist, and this album’s vocals are nice and clear, freeing up the brain to take in the music as a whole, rather than just the sum of its parts.
Having said all that, there is not a ton of new direction on this album; I couldn’t tell you that this was a newer album than the one I listened to in college if I didn’t already know. Aside from acoustic highlight “Die Like a Rich Boy”, it’s the same indie sound we’ve all heard before. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that; staying in a comfort zone works out well most of the time, and this isn’t necessarily a bad album. Not all music has to be complex, and I tend to forget that sometimes. There is certainly enough going on here to make for solid driving music, or something to listen to while working on paperwork, or house cleaning. It’s also good music for clearing your head, as it is definitely a sound full of life and emotion.
If you’re a fan of indie music at all, then this is probably right up your alley. I enjoyed it well enough, and I wouldn’t turn it off immediately if it came on the radio. I could definitely see it being fun to see live, as the sound does swell, ebb, and flow with a measured patience that produces a wonderful effect on the ear. So give it a shot, maybe as you’re settling in for the night or getting up in the morning. There should be something there you can sink your teeth into. Happy listening!
Rating 7 out of 10