Monday, January 10, 2011

Frightened Rabbit and the tender heart of indie rock

I got asked a question on Twitter the other day - which bands would you recommend for someone who likes 'Frightened Rabbit'? I responded with a handful of bands but I thought it would be fun to give it the full blog post treatment. I've focussed on finding bands based on what I consider FR's best work, 2009's The Midnight Organ Fight.

So, here are 4 recommendations for people who like Frightened Rabbit:

Before we begin, all these bands have one thing in common:
Dopey/earnest/vulnerable/white-boy-woe-is-me lyrics - that's not meant to be condescending but I keep coming back to the idea that this whole notion of 'the tender heart of indie' as some sort of sub-genre is essentially guys writing songs they want girls to hear so they can be/stay/fall in love with them, which in turn, will make the guys want to be them

1. The National - Boxer (2008)
2. The National - High Violet (2010)

When the lyrics have an inherent emotional quality, its important that the music itself not come across as sappy. There's something of the infinite about the work of the National and Frightened Rabbit - they create songs of loss, confusion and bittersweet endings that somehow, with each passing listen, make you more hopeful. Frightened Rabbit achieve this with guitary melodies while the National find their infinity in the juxtaposition of soft and hard: strings (Boxer) and horns (High Violet) against a brilliantly propulsive drum and Matt Berninger's gorgeous baritone.

(Seeing the National live is one of the great experiences of my musical life)

3. Rogue Wave - Descended Like Vultures (2005)

What separates this album from the others on this list are its quirkier pop edges -the brilliant loud/soft movements (the chorus to verse transition of Bird on a Wire is an absolute highlight), the pensive, synthy layers of compression that unfurl into choruses that release you.

(This is one of Meg's favourite albums)

4. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin (2007)

The similarities with Band of Horses are two fold: firstly and most obviously, Frightened Rabbit and BoH embrace southern-countrified-folk and rythym and blues to partner their basic electric drive on a great deal of their songs. Secondly, both bands have lead-singers blessed with iconic voices that are most effective when they are straining for their upper limits. However, its the expansive electric guitars on this, my favourite BoH album, that provide the X-factor...they go on for days, as if the guitars shoot stars and these guys are trying to paint the pacific north-west night sky. Whereas the National and Frightened Rabbit surround vulnerability with melody and well-laboured craft, BoH chose beauty.
The last bit on all of this is simply to underscore the fearlessness of these records - don't let all the talk about emotional ambivalence, sadness and confusion allow you to think of these as 'weak' records. They encourage hope - what's braver than that?


PS. I quite enjoyed writing this, so if you'd like to see more of it, DM me on twitter with your request, my ID is MarlonBowman.

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