Scotland's Frightened Rabbit enjoyed a surge in popularity with 2008's The Midnight Organ Fight—a raw, dark exploration of dissolved romance. Now, with the release of The Winter of Mixed Drinks, a breezier statement packed with guarded optimism, Frightened Rabbit displays a grander pop ambition.
A production-heavy affair, The Winter of Mixed Drinks sacrifices some of the immediacy of its predecessor, but that is hardly a setback. The sparkling pop tune "Swim Until You Can't See Land" affectingly works in its sweeping strings; the explosive opener "Things" makes good use of chugging electronic dissonance; and slow-burner "Not Miserable" capitalizes on a soaring denouement of chants and strings.
That said, the production is occasionally unnecessary. The introduction on "Skip the Youth" is excessive. Additionally, the incidental, reprisal piece "Man/Bag of Sand" helps connect the album's themes (water and drowning), but does little more; it's an arty pit stop oddly out of place on an album of swinging pop ditties.
Nonetheless, frontman Scott Hutchison's talents work perfectly within the band's dynamics. Hutchison masterfully sells happiness in unusual couplets—listen to "I am not put upon / I am free from disease, no grays, no liver spots," and, "So the hymns that I sung / Prayers for the fucked from a bitter, forked tongue," in the cathartic "Not Miserable."
Ultimately, the one-two punch of the thundering, penultimate "Living in Colour" and the aching, plaintive closer "Yes, I Would" serve as apt examples of the band's versatility.