Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 sophomore album, The Midnight Organ Fight, was a dark, intimate, stirring collection that dealt with themes of loneliness and sex in such frank detail — with frontman Scott Hutchison’s yearning voice in glaring focus among skin-and-bones instrumentation — that it was occasionally uncomfortable to listen to, though intensely engaging. The album caught me off guard, and connected with me like a long, drunken reconciliation with an old friend. The band’s follow-up, 2010′s The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, was, for me, a disappointment: FR’s spare sound had been fleshed out; where the emotional swells on Fight felt honest and hard-earned, on Winter they felt a bit synthetic and forced. Moreover, the songwriting simply wasn’t on the same level (although the album contained some very strong songs, to be sure).
Frightened Rabbit return next month with Pedestrian Verse, which is a substantial improvement on Winter, although it’s an extension and expansion of that album’s approach to writing and production rather than a return to the stark bareness of Fight. Sonically, Verse is robust and polished, and Hutchison’s voice frequently feels like part of a chorus, but the writing here is roundly fantastic — the songs are memorable and moving. The apex for me is “The Woodpile,” which is up there with “The Twist” and “The Wrestle” among FR’s very finest moments, but it’s not a lone highlight; Verse is full of ’em. The album is out 2/5 via Canvasback/Atlantic, but it’s streaming now at the Guardian. Check it out here.