On their State Hospital EP, Scottish folk-poppers Frightened Rabbit make their major label debut on Atlantic after having enjoyed plenty of indie success from their releases on Fat Cat, 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter Of Mixed Drinks in 2010. Now, the Glasgow quintet has released a handful of outtakes from their forthcoming LP, offering a taste of what’s to come.
The title track paints a delicate portrait of a woman’s breakdown, frontman Scott Hutchison’s voice backed by stark, minimalist production punctuated by crisp percussion. At the end, it builds and swells, Hutchison repeating, “All is not lost.” It’s the kind of statement that’s difficult to have confidence in, and he delivers it that way, as if he’s also looking inward—and that’s what he excels at.
“Boxing Night” nails that particular point of melancholy that comes from juxtaposing one’s own sadness with a time when everyone else is happy. “Good Glasgow could burn to its timbers tonight, I’d barely blink an eye,” Hutchison declares, while lush vocal harmonies serve as reminder that he is not alone. This is, after all, a band that broke out with a breakup album. If anyone can keep coming up with different ways to describe sadness and not have it get old, it’s Hutchison and company. There’s all the tenderness that previously charmed on tracks like The Midnight Organ Fight’s “The Twist,” but the years have allowed different heartaches to build up.
Frightened Rabbit is fundamentally anchored by Hutchison as the heartbroken raconteur—drunk, morbid, alone—and he excels at it. Whatever his real personality may be like, his songwriting persona is the band’s selling point. Across the EP, the instrumentation feels pared down from what was heard on The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, keeping Hutchison front and center. At the end of State Hospital, however, he lets someone else shine, as “Wedding Gloves” sees the band collaborating with Aidan Moffat. The Arab Strap member contributes haunting verses on what might be Frightened Rabbit’s most adventurous song, a pulsing sprawl.
Established indie artists going to major labels can strike fear into the hearts of fans, but Frightened Rabbit lovers should rest easy—there’s nothing to worry about here. The production sounds more expensive, but all the passion and intimacy of their previous work remains.