Frightened Rabbit: The Midnight Organ Fight [Fat Cat]

We Yanks generally like our pop direct and simple, but the second album from Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit reminds us it can be towering and ominous as well. A deft blend of the pretty and the panicked, The Midnight Organ Fight starts with a muted, dissonant acoustic-guitar line but quickly segues into a hammering wail. The subject of opener “The Modern Leper” (all our crippled hearts and how they got that way) persists for the rest of the album. Even when assessing the damage, the lyrics focus on the mundane details, memorable because they sound true. On “The Twist,” frontman Scott Hutchinson morphs a silly dance craze into an anatomy of disheveled stress: “Lift your dress enough to show me those shins/Let your hair stick to your forehead.” In less adept hands, The Midnight Organ Fight might lapse into glum navel-gazing, but Frightened Rabbit works best in chugging, up-tempo mode, and the result sounds like Sugar assaying the Beatles’ ’66-’67 catalog: lushly orchestrated, painfully direct and always just this side of tumbling out of control. The album’s mid-tempo songs display Hutchin-son’s vocals to the fullest emotive effect, but The Midnight Organ Fight’s bloodied-but-unbowed lyrics stand up to repeated listening even on the fastest cuts. [www.fatcat-usa.com]

—Eric Waggoner