By Steven Edelstone
May 11, 2018 at 02:25 PM EDT
Frightened Rabbit Perform At The Forum London
Credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns

“While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to Earth,” Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison yelped in “Head Rolls Off,” a highlight from The Midnight Organ Fight, the Scottish band’s 2007 monster of a breakup album. Hutchison, who passed away at age 36 on Thursday, was widely considered to be one of the best lyricists of his generation. And he made more than tiny changes to this planet, providing countless listeners with a soundtrack to play when they were at their lowest, utilizing his music as a form of therapy to get them through the tough times. He leaves behind one of the strongest back catalogs of the indie rock era.

The band started from humble beginnings, riding a word-of-mouth press campaign to a major record label deal, developing a cult following in the process. In the 10 years since the release of The Midnight Organ Fight, the Glasgow-via-Selkirk band began to play bigger and bigger rooms with each release, watching their crowds swell from a dozen or so people to a few thousand fans screaming back every word Hutchison sang in his heavy accent. Listeners around the world gravitated towards his startlingly honest and heartfelt lyrics, projecting their own experiences onto his morbid words and vivid tales of heartbreak. Hutchison, who throughout his life struggled with depression and anxiety, raised awareness of mental health issues and helped others by speaking openly about his condition.

To honor his legacy, we decided to countdown his finest moments throughout his lengthy career.

10. “Los Angeles, Be Kind”

In 2014, Hutchison wasn’t in the best place following a lengthy Frightened Rabbit tour supporting Pedestrian Verse. Atlantic Records provided him a unique remedy — clear your mind with a solo record. The resulting album, released under the moniker Owl John, was a stunning under-the-radar offering that expanded upon the sound he honed with his main band, this time writing about his experience moving to Los Angeles with his girlfriend. The album’s emotional core, “Los Angeles, Be Kind,” is a downbeat ode to moving to a city where you know next to no one, trying to fit in in a place that doesn’t know you exist.

9. “F— This Place”

When Frightened Rabbit signed to Atlantic Records in late 2010, the move was viewed with skepticism from longtime fans, weary from countless past examples that the jump to the majors would result in a change toward a more mainstream sound. Hutchison & Co. put all of their worries to rest with 2011’s A Frightened Rabbit EP, a free download featuring three self-produced heartfelt tracks. “F— This Place,” a duet with Camera Obscura lead singer Tracyanne Campbell, sees Hutchison lost in a nameless town, begging someone, “Would you be good enough to take me home?” as his voice raises to a fever pitch.

8. “The Loneliness and the Scream”

Many of Frightened Rabbit’s songs became massive sing-alongs at their shows over time, but none quite had the lasting impact of “The Loneliness and the Scream,” the highlight from the band’s third album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. The song was the band’s routine set closer and for good reason — the simple “WHOA OH OH OHHHHHs” followed the group as they walked off stage, the crowd sometimes continuing to sing for five or so minutes after the curtains were drawn. Grant Hutchison’s whiplash-inducing drums pepper the track with a precise and speedy percussion section unseen in any other song in the band’s catalog.

7. “Die Like a Rich Boy”

The last song on their 2016 album Painting of a Panic Attack, “Die Like a Rich Boy” is an acoustic stunner, reminiscent of “Poke.” But unlike that fan favorite, “Rich Boy” is a love song at its core, using morbid imagery to envision his eventual death alongside his beloved partner. “I really like ‘Die Like a Rich Boy,’ which is like a plaintive song at the end, which really hasn’t got a lot of instrumentation on it,” Hutchison explained in his final interview with Noisey. “Do we need all of those bells and whistles on a record? When you’ve got a song that speaks properly as it stands, why put it in a fancy dress? For me, that one stands out as the way that I would like to go. And that was the last song that was written for it, and it was very quick and easy. I’d like to tap into that a little more.”

6. “Acts of Man”

Opening with a melancholy piano, “Acts of Man” builds to a heavy guitar crescendo, one that gets amplified 10 times over in concert. The song’s final refrain captures Hutchison’s songwriting ethos perfectly: “I’m here, I’m here, not heroic but I try.” His trying was more than enough for most of the band’s followers, forever a hero in their eyes.

5. “The Modern Leper”

The first song on Frightened Rabbit’s seminal album, Midnight Organ Fight, “The Modern Leper” kicks things off in a high gear, setting the stage for one of the most brutal breakup records ever written. “Leper” also kicked off the vast majority of their shows, hitting the ground running with a mass sing-along that would always elicit some of the biggest cheers from the crowd. “You’re not ill and I’m not dead / Wouldn’t that make us a perfect pair?” Hutchison asks in the final verse, where he begs for one more chance with his former girlfriend, a relationship that simply wouldn’t end.

4. “Scottish Winds”

When Scotland held its independence referendum in 2014, “Scottish Winds” became one of the theme songs for the “Yes” movement. Hutchison was an outspoken advocate for secession from the U.K. and “Scottish Winds” was his call to arms — “Run forever in my veins, bold Scottish blood,” he sings in his heavy accent.

3. “State Hospital”

A song about a poor woman born in a state hospital with no chance to make much of herself, Hutchison offers some of his most brutal and direct lyrics (“She’s accustomed to hearing that she could never run far / A slipped disc in the spine of community”). But after three verses detailing her hardships, he implores that “all is not lost,” a refrain that would routinely get screamed back by thousands of fans each night, providing a bit of hope in a broken world.

2. “My Backwards Walk”

“My Backwards Walk” is an all-time great breakup song, detailing how intense and tough it is to finally say goodbye and cut the chord. “I’m working hard on walking out / Shoes keep sticking to the ground / My clothes won’t let me close the door / These trousers seem to love your floor,” he sings. You can hear his voice struggle to get to the end of the song, where he can’t even finish the line, “Say yes before I…”

1. “Poke”

“Poke” sees Hutchison at his most devastated state, writing about what it’s like after he finally does walk out the door he was so unable to pass through in “My Backwards Walk.” The last verse, widely acknowledged amongst his fans to be his finest songwriting moment, sees Hutchison grapple with the fact that though they’re finally rid of all the shit they hated, that he never hated his ex. It’s always been a tough listen, but “Poke” resonates even more now than ever.