Category Archives: frightened rabbit

S&B Spotify Playlist: February 2010

From here on in, I’m going to put a playlist on my blog each month which everyone can listen to for free. For this month (and probably next month) it will be on Spotify. After that, I will put it up in the form of mp3s. I am moving to South Korea shortly. They don’t have Spotify there, but they do have 100meg broadband.

It’s not got a lot of new music on it, but stuff I’ve been listening to a lot lately. Some of it, I’m surprised by! For example, since hearing The Winter Of Mixed Drinks a couple of months back, I’ve gone back to listening to Sing The Greys quite a lot. I really like Frightened Rabbit’s new album but don’t necessarily think it’s a logical successor to Midnight Organ Fight. I think there’s as much of their debut set in there as MOF. Anyway, three amazing albums and Music Now is a great track.

Over the past six months I’ve been rifling through Jason Molina’s creative catalogue. I think the guy is a genius. His work as Songs: Ohia is his best and The Electric Magnolia Co is his best album. So understated, effortless and simple. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy comparisons may have been slightly more apt on, say, Ghost Tropic, but with this album he steps out of that shadow and slips comfortably into his own skin. Funny how I’m only picking up on this seven years after the album’s release.

There are quite a few Scottish acts on there… inevitably I guess. Since leaving Edinburgh I’ve trying my best to keep up with what’s been going on. The Withered Hand album, Good News, from last year is one of the best I’ve heard in a long, long time. I’m sorry I’ve never had a chance to see the guy live. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to getting around to his debut. Ardentjohn have a new album out which has been received positively, which I’m happy about.

The Drever, McCusker, Woomble album is one I got my hands on last year, but it’s only been this year that I’ve given it sufficient attention. It really is something else. December saw Idlewild’s 100 Broken Windows voted The Skinny’s Scottish Album of the Decade, but it’s amazing how he has diversified himself over the past few years. Before The Ruin is simply gorgeous. Stripped back, rootsy folk songs, beautifully song, lovingly written and played.

The other tracks are gathered from memories, people and places I’ve loved over the past month or two.

Enjoy (those with Spotify!) Scrawls & Bawls Feb 2010

1. Mason Jennings – Memphis, Tennessee
2. Evan Dando – Hard Drive (Live)
3. The Delgados – Is This All That I Came For?
4. Ardentjohn – Where All Paths Lead
5. The Replacements – Unsatisfied
6. Frightened Rabbit – Music Now
7. Songs: Ohia – Just Be Simple
8. Midlake – Rulers, Ruling All Things
9. Townes Van Zandt – Tecumeseh Valley (Live)
10. Deer Tick – Diamond Rings 2007
11. Drever, McCusker, Woomble – All Along The Way
12. Belle and Sebastian – Sleep The Clock Around
13. Withered Hand – Love In The Time Of Ecstasy
14. Drever, McCusker, Woomble – Hope To See
15. Phosphorescent – Wolves
16. Songs: Ohia – Farewell Transmission
17. Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournielle
18. The Chameleons – Second Skin

Meursault vs Frightened Rabbit

Two of my favourite Scottish bands at the moment recently played a gig at an Oxfam store in Edinburgh. Scott from Frightened Rabbit, who will be releasing their third album next month (my thoughts on that will follow) and Neil Meursault, who I think have a second album due soon, played seven tracks. You can view three of them at the excellent Off The Beaten Tracks. I’ve chosen my favourite, which is an untitled Meursault song, written shortly before the gig took place.

Episode #17.2: Frightened Rabbit vs Meursault – Untitled from Off The Beaten Tracks on Vimeo.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Music Guide

As if your liver won’t come under enough strain, having spent Christmas Week pickled in mulled wine and Bier D’Or, the organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations have decided to extend the festivities. New Year will now be rung in for just the five nights, from 29th December to 2nd January. The entertainment is designed to offer something for everyone, so naturally, some of it will be a bit pish. But those willing to lay down their turkey drumsticks and jingle bells may find themselves rewarded with some decent live music. You just have to know where to find it.

Kicking off on the 29th Off Kilter will be combing live music and dance in the premiere of “an exhilarating new dance anthem for Scotland” mixed by DJ Dolphin Boy at the Festival Theatre. It all sounds pretty dodgy to me. They promise snippets of Franz Ferdinand, The Rezillos, Calvin Harris and Hugh McDiarmid. I promise nothing. Tread carefully children.

Calvin Harris plays a DJ set in the HMV Picturehouse on Wednesday 30th, but Mars and Jupiter align to produce negating circumstances, namely, tickets being extortionately priced, and Calvin Harris being a bit shit. So if I were you, I’d save myself for New Year’s Eve. I suggest getting yourself down to the Vic Galloway-hosted Waverley Stage, which is the clear highlight. The organisers have obviously been paying attention to the aural demands of the natives, pulling in Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Stanley Odd (some of the best acts on the Scottish music scene). Unfortunately they proceed to undo their good work by including rabble-rousing Coventry grease-monkeys The Enemy at the top of the bill. Why, oh why?

Madness and The Noisettes play sets at the Concert in the Gardens, on West Princes Street, and for those prepared to don their dancing shoes, The West End DJ Stage will feature performances from Mylo and sets from Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Tom Simpson, and Belle and Sebastian’s Richard Colburn.

I’m guessing that most of you will all be pretty hammered anyway and will have a debauch-filled night, regardless of who you see. Which is the name of the game, really.

Happy New Year, folks.

*A heavily edited version of this appeared in The Skinny’s Edinburgh Hogmanay Guide.

Scottish Albums of the Decade #4: Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

(Note, this is my number one album, but was number four on The Skinny’s list, for whom I wrote the piece)

On the face of it, their product is hardly revolutionary. Yet, for the past year and a half, The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit has been the album that simply keeps on giving. Potty-mouthed songwriter Scott Hutchison’s dog-on-heat tales of drunken love and lust could, in less capable hands, have manifested themselves as self-indulgent lad rock. But the awesome visceral force that ensured these songs came to fruition helps make them some of the best of the decade.

Hutchison’s couplets are whisky-tipped arrows to the ticker. Struggling to pull himself from the mire of a failed relationship, he veers from self-pity (Modern Leper) to denial (I Feel Better), from bitterness (Keep Your Self Warm) to lugubrious, wide-eyed misery (Poke, Floating Down The Forth). Somehow, though, the album emerges with a sense of triumph. The pessimism is overridden by an animalistic salubriousness and an unmistakably Scottish sense of gallows humour, all propelled forward by the ferocious tub-thumping of Scott’s brother, Grant.

Trying to pick an album highlight has been an exercise in futility. Over the course of 18 months, any one of ten tracks has suggested itself as a contender. The song-writing here is accumulative: borrowing from a range of styles to create a near perfect whole; a flawless indie-pop record. The dustbowl-tinged slide guitar on Good Arms Vs Bad; the unforeseen, exhilarating solo on Fast Blood; the swirling, chimerical instrumentation of Floating down the Forth; the plinking piano intro to The Twist and the overwhelmingly lovely, reverb-touched balladry of Poke are all marks of massive progression from the promising debut set, Sing The Greys.

Now, as they prepare to unleash album number three, the weight of anticipation has been increased immeasurably. But Frightened Rabbit can rest assured that The Midnight Organ Fight deserves its place amongst Scotland’s finest.

Video: Scott Hutchison – My Backwards Walk

Scottish Albums of the Decade

A couple of months back, The Skinny organised a poll, voted for by both writers and readers, to find out what peoples’ favourite Scottish albums of the decade had been. The writers were to nominate their top ten, with the readers just plumping for their favourites. I have to admit, I found this much trickier than the usual Ten of the Year. A whole decade of Scottish music?

I lived in Edinburgh for almost four years and have been writing for The Skinny for just as long. In that time I was exposed to oodles of good new Scottish bands. Despite that, my list is still pretty populist. Most of the bands are relatively well-known. As The Skinny prepare to reveal the final Top Twenty, here’s my own Top Ten Scottish Albums of the Decade.

1. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

2. Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress

3. The Twilight Sad – 14 Autumns…

4. The Beta Band – Hot Shots II

5. Camera Obscura – Lets Get Out Of This Country

6. The Delgados – Universal Audio

7. Idlewild – 100 Broken Windows

8. FOUND –This Mess We Keep Reshaping

9. The Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

10. Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase

Video: Frightened Rabbit – Heads Roll Off

2010: Year of the Rabbit? An Interview with Frightened Rabbit

As they prepare to unleash album number three, Finbarr Bermingham spoke to Frightened Rabbit to find out what 2010 holds in store.

Scott Hutchison is in Bath. Today should have been his day off. But instead, Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer and songwriter has found himself cooped up in a Somerset studio by day and answering his phone to journalists by night. The never-ending spiral of production and promotion has laid claim to the spirits of many musicians. Hutchison, though, is more philosophical than most.

“There are days when it’s awful,” he tells me as he checks into his hotel room. “But you have to catch yourself and transfer your body into an office, wearing a suit. Then you think: ‘Fuck it, I’m alright.’ Even on the worst days of touring, to me it’s preferable to any other job, so I’m not going to complain at all.”

Frightened Rabbit have been recording the B-sides for their forthcoming single, Swim Until You Can’t See Land. It precedes the March 2010 release of album number three, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, which Hutchison says is “more of a storytelling record” than anything they’ve put out before. It will be speckled with autobiographical musings, but nothing to match the heart-on-sleeve opus that was Midnight Organ Fight. “In other words,” he assures us, “I didn’t spend all of winter getting pissed!”

“At its core,” Scott continues, “it’s still full of songs and for me, that’s the point of putting an album together. The way we’ve treated them is sonically quite different. It’s much more layered, but I don’t want to say grand, because the obvious mistake to make is to start going over the top. But I don’t think we have – in many ways it’s a much more restrained and confident record. I don’t think it’s grasping for your attention as much as the last record and the difference in confidence is probably why.”

The runaway success of Midnight Organ Fight was largely unforeseen and it’s a measure of the band’s progress that The Winter of Mixed Drinks is one of the most anticipated albums of 2010. For many, expectation like that is liable to breed pressure. For Hutchison, though, it all comes from within. “I just want to better myself,” he says. “When you’re demoing, writing and recording you’re away from outside influence. It’s nice forgetting about the fact that anyone’s going to hear the songs and remembering how to write to please yourself again.”

If the new songs were written to please Hutchison, then surely previous tracks were written to help him. Painfully personal accounts of a failed relationship formed the basis of Midnight Organ Fight and the album charts Scott’s progress as he attempts to get his life back on track. Frequently it’s stirring. Sometimes it’s lewd and at others it’s funny. But the only track his mother struggles to listen to is Floating Down The Forth, during which Hutchinson contemplates suicide.

“I can see why a mum might not want to hear about her son having those thoughts. But she’s extremely supportive of the rest of it. I’m sure I’ve said ‘cunt’ in front of my mum once or twice, so the language isn’t much of an issue.”

The subject of the songs, too, has been for the most part encouraging. “I know the girl in question has heard it,” explains Scott. “She told me that some days she’d enjoy it and others she just couldn’t bear listening to it at all. I understand that, she’s good enough to not complain about it and even though we don’t keep in touch anymore, for the small amount of time that we did, she was pretty supportive.”

In less than a month, Frightened Rabbit will play one of their biggest shows to date, when they take to the stage at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party. New Year has, in the past, brought contrasting fortunes for the Selkirk band. Scott describes last year’s performance in Sydney as “bloody excellent” and one of the highlights of his short career. Its grandiosity is only magnified when it’s considered alongside some of their humbler experiences. Scott takes up the story:

“A couple of years before that, we played at Barfly. It was the year the George Square celebration got cancelled because of the gales and the rain, so it was bad enough trying to even get there. At the time, we were doing all our own driving and I had to wait until we got all the way home to have a drink. So, that was shit. I think we got paid something like fifty quid for our trouble.”

He admits that sometimes it’s good to reflect on dark nights like those. “We’ve done okay,” is his modest assessment of the subsequent couple of years. The twelve months ahead, though, promise to be some of the busiest of their lives, but Hutchison is anything but daunted. “There are always people to be played to, there’s always a new town to go to so we’re going to treat it like that and tour the arse off it!”

Scott contemplates the rigours ahead, before saying, “It could be worse.”

One wonders whether he’s thinking of that suit?