Frightened Rabbit — The Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat)

The leap between Frightened Rabbit’s debut, Sing the Greys, and the sophomore Midnight Organ Fight was like the difference between grayscale and full colour — the songwriting was more grand, the heartache more vivid. Now,with The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band seems poised on the brink of mainstream success. Give or take singer Scott Hutchison’s Scottish brogue, nothing in first single “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and the raucous “Nothing Like You” would sound out of place on radios or in stadiums next to the bombastic likes of Coldplay or U2.

That’s not to say that Frightened Rabbit has gone all glossy and commercial — Winter isn’t as heartbroken or sexually frustrated as Organ, but Hutchison attacks broader themes like isolation and redemption with the same intensity he brought to that highly personal sophomore effort. Even if the songwriting falls closer to a less monotone version of The National, the mood is all about grandiosity. The production has grown to match the Hutchison’s thematic ambition, drenching the songs in reverb-soaked guitars and insistent background vocals without sacrificing an iota of urgency, with the exception of the mood-killing reprise, “Man/Bag of Sand” around halfway through.

It doesn’t mark the same leap as the one between the band’s first two discs, and Organ’s scrappier moments are definitely missed, but Winter is the sort of slow-and-steady progression that shows a band is in it for the long run. It’s just a matter of waiting for the audience to catch on.

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