New releases from Frightened Rabbit, Japanese Breakfast, and Charles Bradley 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Frightened Rabbit
  • Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit

Painting of a Panic Attack


File next to: Arab Strap, We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Twilight Sad

Scott Hutchison has spent 10 years honing the unique moping grace of Frightened Rabbit, defining a hope within hopelessness for fans who long ago outgrew emo rock. While recent albums like Pedestrian Verse and Winter of Mixed Drinks appeared to take the suicide-and-redemption cycle to its most fully realized vision, Painting of a Panic Attack yet again epitomizes the genre. With arrangements full of decibel changes and sweeping visions, Frightened Rabbit delivers songs like "Get Out" and "400 Bones" that manage to avoid going over old ground. But is this as far as the Selkirk, Scotland, band can go? Former Scottish bleak-rock kings, Arab Strap, called it quits when there was no more heartache to document. Hutchison could bypass such a fate by leading Frightened Rabbit into drunken happy Scottish reels, if only to avoid painting the band into a lonely corner. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Japanese Breakfast
  • Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast


Yellow K Records

File next to: The Dream Academy, Prefab Sprout, My Bloody Valentine

Though the title of this Eugene, Oregon, outfit's full-length might evoke thoughts of the debut album from The Jesus and Mary Chain, '80s U.K. dream-pop is a more useful reference point. Originally available as a limited-run cassette, Psychopomp is chock full of infectious melodies, bouncy hooks and a knowing sense of how to arrange a tune full of dynamics. Exuberant tracks like "In Heaven" are balanced nicely by moodier, more contemplative tracks such as "The Woman Who Loves You." Even within the confines of pop songcraft (all nine tracks come in at four minutes or less), Japanese Breakfast creates songs that start subtly and build to a joyful crescendo. Michelle Zauner's winsome vocals are out front, and the band chugs along assuredly, adding plenty of texture that reveals itself more fully on a second or third listen. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Charles Bradley
  • Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley


Daptone Records

File next to: James Brown, Sharon Jones & the Dap-kings, Eli Paperboy Reed

On Bradley's third full-length, the "screaming eagle of soul" shows himself to be a fascinating interpreter of incredibly diverse material, as evidenced by his soulful reading of Black Sabbath's "Changes." Bradley mines a sense of pathos that Ozzy's vocal merely hinted at; he truly makes the song his own. A rare misstep is the disc opener: Doubtless Bradley is sincere with his reading of "God Bless America," but it comes off a bit maudlin. Throughout Changes, he's ably backed by a Memphis-styled brass section; they dip into the Seals & Crofts playbook for "Nobody But You," and the band chugs along sounding very much like the Jimi Hendrix Experience (plus horns) on the fiery "Ain't It a Sin." Bradley's career resurgence proves Fitzgerald was wrong about American lives; there truly can be second acts. — Bill Kopp


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