Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” by Frightened Rabbit from their 2010 album The Winter of Mixed Drinks on FatCat Records.
Some of you may remember today’s featured artist Frightened Rabbit from their Neumo’s appearance last September as one-third of a Scottish-rock trifecta that also boasted performances from We Were Promised Jetpacks and The Twilight Sad.
About as bare-bones as you can get, Frightened Rabbit began as less of a band and more of a stage name for guitarist and singer Scott Hutchison. After about a year, brother Grant joined up on drums, thus beginning a steady stream of additions culminating with last year’s fifth recruit Gordon Skene (Make Model) and the release of their most successful record to date, The Midnight Organ Fight (2009 on FatCat). This steady stream of new personnel can be attributed to the band’s desire to move in the direction of meatier, more densely layered songs. Arriving hot on the heels of The Midnight Organ Fight, Frightened Rabbit’s third release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (out now on FatCat), finds the band more in-tune with the potentiality of song structure than ever before. Indeed The Winter of Mixed Drinks takes the next in a long line of steps forward -- away from the kind of “simple, straight-forward-pop” that garnered such critical praise for its predecessor. I don’t mean to suggest Frightened Rabbit has eliminated the pop –- never fear, the catchy/anthemic quality that built their fan base remains front and center, accentuated by additional instrumentation, vocal harmonies and increased production value. They’re simply doing more -- with more -– and more carefully.
The lead single from The Winter of Mixed Drinks, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” mirrors the band’s progression beautifully. The song starts off in familiar but more upbeat territory with softly picked guitars and a gentle tambourine beat supporting Hutchison’s typically emotive Scottish vocals. Soon enough the addition of ghostly vocal tracks, full-fledged brotherly drumming, and a beautiful string arrangement thicken the song into the kind of robust orchestral pop that truly stands tall. From start to finish we experience growth. While The Winter of Mixed Drinks is a new high, it is not the apex. If there’s one thing this band has demonstrated it is that with time comes expansion and change. With that said, Frightened Rabbit has most certainly reached new levels of sonic maturity. Let us now reap the benefits and look forward to the next chapter.
Frightened Rabbit will be LIVE on KEXP tomorrow, during our broadcast from SXSW. Listen to them at 11AM. From Austin, they head to Europe a few dates before beginning a full U.S. tour, which includes a stop at Neumos in Seattle on May 16. You can find all their dates on the band’s MySpace page. For now, here’s the official video for today’s Song of the Day: