With each release, Frightened Rabbit’s music grows by leaps and bounds: they offered humble, moody folk-pop on Sing the Greys, which they expanded into searching rock on Midnight Organ Fight. On The Winter of Mixed Drinks, they focus and polish Organ Fight’s epics -- and add a healthy dose of optimism. Though they’ve always been concerned with heavy issues like life, death, freedom, devotion, and spirituality, this time the bandmembers don’t seem beaten down by their struggles with them. Even when Scott Hutchison sings “Find God just to lose it again” on “The Loneliness and the Scream,” there’s a warmth in the music that makes him sound liberated instead of isolated. Indeed, liberation is a major theme on The Winter of Mixed Drinks, whether it’s shedding a “mediocre past” on “Things” or losing one’s self in the moment on the joyous “Swim Until You Can’t See the Land.” This hopeful streak puts Frightened Rabbit’s anthems more in line with early U2 than with their friends and fellow Scotsmen the Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks -- and sweetly direct album closer “Yes I Would” steers refreshingly clear of Coldplay-esque platitudes. Yet not all of The Winter of Mixed Drinks is so straightforward: “The Wrestle”’s choral chanting and backwards samples add an ethereal touch to its full-throttle charge, and “Skip the Youth”’s refrain of “Skip the youth, it’s aging me too much” shows the band can be playful while making a big statement. Frightened Rabbit deal mostly in grand gestures, but when they’re as rousing as “Living in Colour” -- which features a gorgeous string arrangement by the band’s FatCat labelmate Hauschka -- it hardly matters. The Winter of Mixed Drinks looks at life’s ice and snow from the perspective of a dawning spring.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares