First Listen: Frightened Rabbit’s “Fields of Wheat”

Bklyn Steel

After wrapping up a U.S. tour, the members of Glasgow-based Frightened Rabbit have been sequestered in a house south of Galveston, Texas, writing and recording roughs for a new album. Last night, they shared a song and posted a photo of the handwritten lyrics, with scratched-out phrases and all. It’s an arrival without the usual major-label social media arm-waving. And it’s altogether fitting that an expression of such aching beauty should enter this way on a Saturday morning, as if a friend slipped an unmarked CD under your dorm room door.

“This isn’t about me. It’s about the avenues, crescents, streets, and lanes we’ve not been to — windows we don’t peek through” Scott Hutchison ruminates in “Fields of Wheat.” The track — a bedroom confessional in the vein of Elliott Smith or Jose Gonzalez — is framed by a finger-picked meditation on acoustic guitar (Simon Liddell) and overlaid with touches of gauzy organ (Andy Monaghan). The latter builds to a not-quite-dissonant fuzz two-thirds of the way through — just enough to color the mood a few shades darker.

“Fields of Wheat” strips away the sweaty, sweary bombast of a Frightened Rabbit concert to reveal the persistent, oft-hidden anxieties of modern life. It’s a reminder that behind the major-label fixtures, masterful studio production, and festival stages, is a bunch of boys barely out of their 20s, pushing bodies and psyches to the limit to bring these songs to life, to capture honest sentiments in tumultuous times.

As outsiders, we can’t know the personal narratives behind the music embedded in our collective unconscious. But we can imagine. And I envision a series of liminal spaces — between city and ocean, dusk and dawn, an American administration careening out of control and a UK climate of mutiny against an attempted Tory chokehold.

There’s a certain melancholy here that reflects not so much regret, as the process of reckoning — an accounting of where we stand after the adrenaline of the road wears off and the longing for home re-enters. It’s fragile, but not frail. And it’s a lovely way to start your weekend.

Connect with Frightened Rabbit on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Pick up their latest album, Painting of a Panic Attack, here.

Flock of Dimes + EL VY at the 9:30 Club

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods. Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt. But there’s music in us.

It feels wrong to post anything today, mere days after the attacks in Paris and Beirut, without noting the violent ends to which extremists will go and the myriad ways in which we respond. Many of us treat music as a safe haven and a bridge between beliefs and borders. Surely the events must touch a particular nerve in musicians and music lovers familiar with Le Bataclan, one of the sites of Friday’s violence. So I’ll open with this video from yesterday of a man who towed his grand piano behind his bike, parked it outside Bataclan, and performed John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And I’ll direct you to this poem by Jack Gilbert, who fiercely insists that “there will be music despite everything” — despite the sorrow, despite the slaughter.

Flock of Dimes


As one-half of Wye Oak, Jenn Wasner has created brash, folk-tinged rock alongside drummer & keyboardist Andy Stack. The Baltimore native has since ventured out with solo work under the moniker Flock of Dimes. Though the full album has yet to be released, Wasner is road-testing the songs as she tours with EL VY (more later on the side project of The National’s frontman). If the Flock of Dimes songs we heard on Wednesday night represent almost-but-not-quite-finished products, then we’ve got some true sonic candy to savor in the months ahead. These are majestic, effects-drenched pieces — so full-bodied that you wouldn’t guess they’re the product of a single performer.

For most of the opening set, Wasner was half-hidden behind an array of keys, dials, and guitars — but there’s no hiding that voice with its shimmering energy, like a dream that visits by night and haunts through the day.

Continue reading “Flock of Dimes + EL VY at the 9:30 Club”

Hamilton Leithauser at AMP by Strathmore

Early on in his set, Hamilton Leithauser flashed that signature smirk: “My kid’s here tonight, so I have to spell out the title of this next one: ‘Dad is D-R-U-N-K.'”

I had been introduced to the little gal earlier that evening. She now sat beside her grandparents, clapping excitedly for her dad.

Said dad is the former frontman of The Walkmen. The indie rock band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2013 and its members ventured forth with solo efforts — Leithauser’s Black Hours (produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij), Walter Martin’s collection of children’s songs We’re All Young Together, and Peter Matthew Bauer’s Liberation! And last month, Leithauser and Walkmen guitarist Paul Maroon released Dear God, a set of nine original songs plus covers of Tom Paxton, Will Oldham, the Everly Brothers, and V.F. Stewart.

Continue reading “Hamilton Leithauser at AMP by Strathmore”

Protected: Some Chaos First: A Summer Playlist

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