Love Letter To A Record: Isla Noon On Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Isla Noon – Frightened Rabbit, Painting of a Panic Attack (2016)

The last physical CD I ever intentionally sought out was Frightened Rabbit’s Painting of a Panic Attack. I was heading out for a road trip with someone I had just started seeing (in hindsight this could’ve gone very wrong but luckily it went very right) and thought myself so romantic for digging through stores to find this indie-rock album they had mentioned loving so we could listen to something in the car that could only play discs. I didn’t know anything about the album, and realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t exactly what you would call an uplifting road trip record – maybe I should’ve guessed from the title?

Regardless, we committed, and in the absence of an aux input, we looped Painting of a Panic Attack the whole weekend. Pretty quickly I latched on to favourite tracks – ‘Get Out’, ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ and ‘Woke Up Hurting’, which formed their own little trilogy. I started memorising lyrics, with the opening lines of ‘Get Out’ remaining, to this day, some of my favourite lyrics of all time:

“I’m in the arch of the church between her thumb and her forefinger / I’m a worshipper

A zealot king, cursed, a devotee of the heady golden dance she does / she’s an uncut drug”

To be honest, most of the album is quite bleak, and very raw, with flickers of hope interwoven between stories of grappling with ill mental health.

I was so drawn in by the songwriting that it didn’t take long for me to start building an image of the writer behind it all. A songwriter’s songwriter, exploring such staggering pain and equally staggering love in this thick Scottish accent. Cellphone reception was scarce over the weekend, and in a way, I was enjoying not jumping on to the internet immediately to find out everything about it. I let the album speak for itself, and found myself quietly daydreaming on the way home about seeing it played from the front row of a thunderous live show. That night I finally gave into Google, researching the band and any upcoming live shows. I had just missed their international tour by a few months, so I told myself that I would catch them on their next trip around.

One year later, strangely almost to the day, I read on Frightened Rabbit’s social media that primary songwriter and frontman Scott Hutchison had passed at age 36. I was surprised at just how devastated I was. I was a newer fan but had bonded with the music and Hutchison’s songwriting so quickly. The band confirmed they were unable to continue, and so it was the end of Frightened Rabbit.

As time went on it dawned on me that I was never going to see the band, or Painting of Panic Attack, live. It’s a small loss in the grand scheme of things, but there’s still a part of me that wishes I could sing those opening lines to ‘Get Out’ with the band in a whole crowd of people who know it by heart.

Needless to say, that CD became a shared possession. I’m so grateful for this record and songwriters like Scott Hutchison whose radical honesty and ridiculously rare talent touch souls the whole world over.

Thanks for everything, Painting of Panic Attack.

Love, Isla Noon

Watch the video for Isla Noon’s sparkling new single ‘Talk About Us’.

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