The Winter of Mixed Drinks
The best band in Scotland by some distance now, Frightened Rabbit have built a huge reputation among indie fans, but with The Winter Of Mixed Drinks look set to break through into mainstream attention.
It is deserved, and for those of us who care it will be glorious to see a band with this kind of quality begin to appeal to mainstream listeners. The Winter Of Mixed Drinks builds on its predecessor Midnight Organ Fight with another great title and a wonderful set of blustery intelligent acoustic electric rock. With lead single Swim Until You Can't See Land (and its wonderful refrain 'Swim until you can't see land, are you a man or are you a bag of sand?') already out there worming its way into public consciousness, the sound of stubborn rebellion, Celtic folk, and fierce wit brings to mind a 2010 Big Country. There may be no single song that tops The Modern Leper (Nothing Like You comes close), but each song builds so well that you start to see things only one way. If there is a criticism, it is that there is a feeling of padding in the inclusion of part songs and ideas, which loses a great album one point.
ACE rating 8/10
Turin Brakes had a golden period around the beginning of the 2000s, when their album Ether Song seemed to make the soundtrack to every TV programme, and provide the background music to every middle class dinner party. A kinder, gentler Elbow, the duo make nice, acoustic music for nice people. Unfortunately for them, they have moved on not one jot in the 7 years since Ether Song; Outbursts may be their 5th studio album, but is a plain and simple retread of everything that's gone before. Despite claiming that every record sees them move on, there is a strong sense that they have found that journey away from their initial success frustrating, so have aimed at Ether Songs II. Outbursts starts nicely enough, with the only song worthy of attention (Sea Change), but even that is several notches lower than say a Jacob Golden song. If Turin Brakes are your thing, this is 45 minutes of more of the same. If they are new to you, do seek out Ether Song - it is still a great listen. Outbursts would provide inoffensive dinner party music still, but it seems to have no other purpose.
ACE rating 6/10
The Deadstring Brothers have not changed their formula over the years - aping late 60s/ early 70s Rolling Stones. If, like most, you agree that that was the best Stones period, this is a cause for celebration, as the Stones stopped making great music some 25 years ago. Sao Paulo can't touch the heights of that band's best, but with its blend of country, blues and rock, there is some sense that this is a comforting place to spend some time - Sao Paulo's most obvious comparison is with Exile On Main Street, which is a rather high benchmark. An album that works better when consumed as a whole, to allow time for the mood to emerge and sink in, rather than sampled one song at a time, this is good time rock and roll. The Deadstring Brothers give the lie to those who claim that they don't make music the way they used to, because this Detroit band only seem to know one way to make them.
ACE rating 7/10