Frightened Rabbit’s latest offering is a collection of brooding, generally pretty songs acutely aware that decay is an inevitable conclusion and atrophy is the natural order of things.
This could easily turn into a slog, but Painting of a Panic Attack is a fine album and sometimes even a fun one. There’s a peace to the universal nature of the bleakness that permeates the record and somehow makes songs about existing in the face of inescapable decline seem triumphant.
The idea of resigning one’s self to disappointment and eventual demise, but realizing the intervening years still have to believed and approaching them with something resembling optimism is a theme in just about every song on the album.
And when that optimism is explicitly expressed, it feels particularly earned because everything else is so dire.
This is why I would recommend the deluxe edition, which includes 3 extra songs and vastly upgrades the closing track.
“Die Like a Rich Boy” is a class conscious spin on “Thantatopsis” and honestly a bit boring.
“Lick of Paint” which closes out the deluxe version is an earnest seesaw folk song with some really lovely harmonizing. It concerns the patchwork, ultimately cosmetic improvements that go into refurbishing self and relationships without making fundamental change.
It’s also much catchier, and on an album that can sometimes be a bit strapped for hooks, is very welcome.
The extension makes structural sense, as well. The lively “Break” becomes a halfway-point and a respite from gentle, dour noises, and “Lump Street” provides enough of a jolt to carry the next three tracks straight through to the better closing song.
Still, even the standard version is a solid collection of glum tunes, acerbic observation and tales of questionable sobriety that I’d recommend.
Of course that means in other words, it’s a Frightened Rabbit album, but it does have some distinguishing features.
Painting of a Panic Attack finds the Scottish indie rockers in gentle, restrained form.
Not that Midnight Organ Fight was a stomping guitar album, but this album is particularly docile. Even the songs that prominently feature guitar don’t exactly rock. Instead, spacey shimmers generally supply a sense of texture.
The sense of distance is underscored at points by John Carpenter-esque icy synths that show up throughout the album– to particularly strong effect on the standout”Lump Street”.
Aaron Dessner of The National who handled production also provides some sonic flourish. The cresting guitar-strumming, piano-twinkling intro to the excellent “An Otherwise Disappointing Life” is unmistakably out of The National’s playbook. Painting… sounds rich and fully realized throughout which helps keep things interesting.
Overall, I didn’t love Painting of a Panic Attack, but I absolutely love some tracks on it, and even when it isn’t great its attempts to grapple with some weighty topics are still admirable. Definitely worth a listen.