It’s time once again to take a long look at the body of work of a band the common guy contributors consider one of the best bands running. In the latest installment of our Top 10 Songs series, the common guys have assembled their favorites from Scottish band, Frightened Rabbit.
It’s still hard for me to believe this band was introduced to me by a washed up basketball playing journeyman by the name of Paul Shirley. He had a very short-lived column on espn.com in which they let him wax poetic on all topics pop culture including music. One column including reference to a song called “Poke” by a band called Frightened Rabbit. He wrote about how the lyrics and vocals touched some sort of nerve which lead to the inevitable further discovery of the band’s entire catalog which at that time was basically two albums.
That initial discovery through Paul Shirley lead me down a path to discovering all I could about Frightened Rabbit. The first album I fell in love with was The Midnight Organ Fight and I remember thinking (a) this album is incredible…one of those you listen to without skipping a single track and (b) this band is about to be added to a short list of artists that I will forever purchase whatever material they put out without hesitation.
As I embark on this Top 10 list, it’s important to remember this is based on the band’s first four albums ONLY. The most recent release is not yet under consideration. We’ll incorporate that into a revised Top 10 list a few more years down the road. It’s also important to consider this list has been drafted with an ever-increasing level of excitement before a live show coming up in Minneapolis at Varsity Theater. It’s going to be a good week.
Incredibly difficult to leave these fine tracks off of the Top 10 but they ended up falling just a little short…
Sing the Greys
“Behave!” – The debut album definitely felt rough around the edges bringing some youthful, almost punk rebellion-esque tracks to the table. This one has a simple theme…how can a guy be expected to behave himself when he finds himself face to face with the woman he loves?
“Square 9” – Another track from the debut album packing the driving guitar and drums Frightened Rabbit leans on heavily throughout their discography.
The Midnight Organ Fight
“The Modern Leper” – A fantastic way to open up an album that I’ve already alluded to likely represents the band’s best effort to date. This album is about going through heartache and breakup and why a woman knows exactly how to tear a man apart. “I am ill but I’m not dead and I don’t know which of those I’d prefer” is still one of my favorite lines.
“Old Old Fashioned” – This one has an upbeat quality to it speaking to getting back to the early stages of a relationship when things are simple and fun.
The Winter of Mixed Drinks
“Things” – Another great opening track to an album. I really enjoy the kind of reverbed/fuzzy guitar setting the stage for the verses. Drums stand out here as well.
“Swim Until You Can’t See Land” – Probably one of the band’s most popular songs as I think this one hit the radio airwaves for a stretch when the album was initially released.
“Backyard Skulls” – This one comes from an album that shows a band that seems to have smoothed over its raw/rough edges for a more polished sound. It’s definitely not a bad thing…just evident by the change in sound. This one is a very solid track about trying to hide the parts of a relationship you don’t want to revisit or to be found but inevitably will someday come back to haunt you.
“Holy” – This one just feels like a perfect opener for a live set. The chorus has that sound that you can almost hear the crowd belting out along with the lead singer. Good track…just not quite Top 10 worthy.
On to the Top 10!
10. “I Feel Better” – The Midnight Organ Fight
I’ve always enjoyed the way this song represents the conflict you feel when you go through some sort of breakup. You waffle between feeling better and worse depending on what you find that reminds you of the other person. Musically the skills of the drummer are on full display. It also features well-placed horns that round out the song perfectly.
9. “Late March, Death March” – Pedestrian Verse
There’s something almost gospel-like on this track especially with the heavy assist from the background singers at various points in the verses and especially at the chorus. Lyrics speak to an inevitable march towards death based on the sins of the protagonist.
8. “Floating in the Forth” – The Midnight Organ Fight
The second song to make an appearance on the Top 10 list from an amazing album. The soft guitar riff playing off the vocals blends perfectly. The lyrics are pretty heavy as the singer contemplates suicide to try to make things feel better after a terrible breakup. Hope prevails at the end though as he decides to “save suicide for another day”.
7. “The Woodpile” – Pedestrian Verse
I’ve always really enjoyed this song. Feels like one of the more optimistic and upbeat songs from the band which seems kind of odd given he’s singing about lighting the woodpile of his shattered life.
6. “The Twist” – The Midnight Organ Fight
The keys pave the way throughout this song driving everything forward. It’s one of my favorite songs about a one-night stand.
5. “The Loneliness and the Scream” – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
This song demonstrates what makes Frightened Rabbit so good. This song is about feeling isolated and lonely and wondering if anyone actually sees you. And it’s wrapped up in a beautifully crafted song that makes it feel almost uplifting. Another track with a big ending that energizes a crowd.
4. “The Wrestle” – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
This is one of my absolute favorite openings to a Frightened Rabbit song of all time. Such a cool bass guitar riff.
3. “Keep Yourself Warm” – The Midnight Organ Fight
If this list would have been done during the first year I discovered this band, I think this track would have been #1. It still holds up very well but has been surpassed by a couple of songs that I enjoy ever so slightly more. Lyrics are simply incredible. One of my favorite songs about sex of all time.
2. “My Backwards Walk” – The Midnight Organ Fight
This song has been on an unprecedented rise over the course of the last couple of years. I’ve always liked the track but lately it’s been easily my favorite from a ridiculously strong album. It has such a great build throughout the song until it gets to the classic line “You’re the sh** and I’m knee deep in it”.
1. “State Hospital” – Pedestrian Verse
I knew this song would be a contender for the top spot but as I re-evaluated the entire catalog again it just kept maintaining its momentum.