Artist: Frightened Rabbit
Album: Midnight Organ Fight
Comments: Even before the turn of the new year, I was late to the Frightened Rabbit party. I first heard them shortly after college while staying with a friend, their Scottish voices and large-minded soft rock coming from his little brother's speakers. I offhandedly asked what it was, feigned interest and forgot all about them. A few weeks later, that same friend came to me talking about their songwriting and how "just fucking cool" their music was. Because I am wretched, I ignored him, too.
It wasn't until the waning moments of 08 that I finally got on board and got Midnight Organ Fight, a decision that I regret only for my tardiness. Frightened Rabbit's second album is a combination of Coldplay and Shout Out Louds, merging stadium readiness with smart pop construction for an album rich with well written anthems melodramatic matters of the heart. This album is one Garden State away from ruining teenage love lives across the nation.
The first three tracks on the album are so good that for the first week of having the album, they are all I listen to. "I Feel Better" is the most rocking of the three but the least substantial despite its excellent delivery of rather uninspired lyrics ("I feel better / and better / and worse and then better). "The Modern Leper" and "Good Arms vs Bad Arms" are the real killers though, the kind of mix tape fodder that serves as the soundtrack to high school pining when love is still new and indestructible in its powers. The kind of songs that will be popping up in AIM profiles and Myspace pages and episodes of Grey's Anatomy and anywhere that emotion is mined for years to come. The former is a self deprecating love song that paints the portrait of a man in decay and the woman who loves him regardless and is both charming and a little embarrassing.
The real magic, however, is the titanic crush of "Good Arms vs Bad Arms," a song about what happens in the aftermath of a relationship devoid of a clean break. Brushed drums and simple background harmonies hang above a repeated guitar line for four minutes, building up to an almost tragic decrescendo. All this would be for nothing if not for the fantastic lyrics that capture the frustration, anger, and melancholy of being the one left behind, the foolish and crazy things it makes you want to do. ("I'm armed with the past/ and the will / and a brick / and I don't want you back / but I want to kill him") It's a near perfect five minutes that is so daunting that it makes the listener almost beg for the album to be over.
Of course, there are ten tracks to go from there. Most all of them are fantastic, and I could paw through songs trying to find more examples of the moving lyric writing, but half the fun of Midnight Organ Fight is finding them and given them their own meaning. It's that kind of album, a cathartic guide to modern love. I'll highlight "The Twist" and “Keep Yourself Warm” as other personal favorites, tracks that denounce the shark lifestyle and looks down at the notion of jumping from person to person for warmth and meaning, but favorites shift depending on mood.
This is by no means a perfect album. The 13 songs on the album are more or less repeats of the first three, causing the album to blend into a giant mess of dramatic soft-pop when taken in one sitting and none of the songs ever match the skull-crushing heartbreak of “Good Arms vs Bad Arms” (although”Keep Yourself Warm” comes close). However, when taken on a song-to-song basis, it's hard to recall a more well written, well performed collection of love songs than the ones found on Midnight Organ Fight. Get on board now, before Frightened Rabbit becomes a household name and Zach Braff is exploiting their magic for his self-absorbed vanity projects.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Key Tracks: Good Arms vs Bad Arms, The Modern Leper, The Twist, Keep Yourself Warm
Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy