I have come to very much enjoy scottish bands. There is something about the way that a scottish accent sounds in vocals that is really cool. Maybe it’s just because I have heard the English or faux English accents for so long, that this sounds fresh. One of my favorite scottish bands is Biffy Clyro, and when I originally heard Frightened Rabbit on the radio, I mistook the latter for the former. That is until the song continued and I realised how much more reigned in, flowy and straightforward the backing music was (if you are familiar with Biffy Clyro, that is not an insult, they can be pretty all over the place, loud, and angular at times). The best way I can describe Frightened Rabbit is if Snow Patrol had been from Scotland (instead of transplanted there), and if they had not gone the top 40, over-produced route at all, and instead kept playing in bars forever, and had a singer who emotes like that dude from Once.
The Winter of Mixed Drinks is filled with heartfelt, layered, scottish indie rock. Very strong front to back. The songs are never particularly quiet or loud, and changes in volume or dynamics tend to be gradual, and flow up and down, like waves that have not yet come close enough to the shore to topple over themselves. Blech, lame water analogy. I’ll let that one pass though, this album is full of water themes. Many songs start with a single sound, but different instruments are quickly stacked, then the song is allowed to settle at that level for a bit before the main bits come in. The remainder of the song is usually buoyed by the base of either the initial sound, or the levelled out stack. The more I listen to it, the more I hear the atmospherics of The National, and Bon Iver’s denser moments, but with a little more oomph.I found that the songs that moved me most just had an interesting vocal melody that sat just right over all the backing instrumentation and tugged at my heartstrings. I couldn’t always hear the lyrics on the first go, but the communicated emotion makes me want to know what he is singing about if it makes him feel that strongly.
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Things – The opening track is a good indicator of things to come. If you like this song, you’ll like the album. Is it about getting rid of material things? Figurative baggage? Both? Good message either way, in a pleasing sonic wrapping.
Nothing Like You – An uncharacteristically speedy song, matured pop-punk verses bookended by the late 80’s manchester sound on caffeine instead of acid. “She was not the cure for cancer, all my questions still ask for answers.”
Foot Shooter – A kick drum anchors the E-bow and piano intro, Vocals and Bass come in to raise it up, leading into Jimmy Eat World-ish gang drums (a la Your House or Disintigration) and quick, constant guitar strums. The chorus melody is kinda weird and disjointed but familiar and catchy at the same time. Lot’s of oooo-wooo backup vocals to keep it floaty.
When listening to this album, one has a sense of being surrounded by the music. I think this is due to two things, the reverb and echo used on the instruments, and the frequent use of organ, strings or other sustaining sounds hiding in the background. I feel that those subtle organ or organ-like background sounds are what gives songs by bands like U2 and Coldplay that soaring feeling. Listen to some of their songs again, and pay attention to what’s going on behind all the instruments and vocals that jump out of the mix.
People who will like this: fans of The National, Glen Hansard, even Explosions in the Sky, awww heck, Snow Patrol too. Also, people who like scottish accents. Good in the background, great on headphones, or good speakers in an otherwise quiet room.