FRIGHTENED RABBIT-“The Midnight Organ Fight” . . . is the best album of 2008?

Every once in a while—usually not more than once a month or so—I hear an album that completely blows me away. I have to listen to it over and over. Usually, it’s one that sounds instantly familiar and yet incredibly fresh at the same time. That recently happened to me with Scottish threesome Frightened Rabbit’s new release. I say “threesome” because they’re not a power trio. They’re more like Counting Crows than Green Day, more like Whiskeytown than Meat Puppets. Fronted by two bothers and a rhythm guitarist, the band has no bass so don’t bother looking for bottom. (On a few songs, they add keyboards.) Instead, here you’ll find soaring, soulful ballads (“Keep Yourself Warm,” “Bright Pink Bookmark”); foot-tapping, simple tunes that almost sound traditional (“Poke,” “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms”); and incredibly catchy pop anthems that will stay in your toes for weeks, and should make Brandon Flowers jealous (“Head Rolls Off”). On every single perfect song, powerful, wonderful and crisp lyrical lines (“Takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm;” “”Whisper the wrong name, I don’t care and nor do my ears;” “Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name/ How come one man got so much fame?”) combine with brilliant drum work that makes you never miss the bass guitar, a lead guitar that fills all space without taking center stage, and plaintive, I’m-damaged-so-love-me vocals.

“Midnight Organ Fight” is actually better than the band’s first record, “Sing the Greys,” which never got far beyond indie folk. This sophomore album shows incredible range. If this were the ‘90s, this would be the band everyone listened to instead of Blind Melon. But these are the far humbler modern double-ohs, when bands have to rise on merit not overhype and promotion. If there’s any justice, more bloggers will pick up on this extraordinary album. Everyone I’ve shared it with has had it on repeat ever since they heard it. One person told me she wanted to bang on everyone’s doors and get them to come out and hear the music. It’s phenomenal.

Head Rolls Off

Keep Yourself Warm

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