Song 43: Frightened Rabbit, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” (2010)


My wife told me about this one, and I loved it instantly. Who wouldn’t? The bouncy guitar, the tambourine like a cheering section, the lyrics about going going going.

The Winter of Mixed Drinks is a great record in all kinds of ways, but Scott Hutchison’s lyrics are especially wonderful. In this song alone, he sings, “Drop a toe in the ocean, oh how it hardens and it numbs/The rest of me is a version of man built to collapse into crumbs.” In addition to perfectly setting the scene, the word choices are just lovely. Never in a million years would I have thought to use “crumbs” at the end of that line, but it totally works. (Side note: until I looked up the lyrics today, I thought he sang “build to collapse and crumb.” I am slightly disappointed.)

It’s hard to tell whether the narrator is crawl-stroking himself away from hardship or just running away, but maybe it doesn’t matter. Either way, he’s making a decision to swim–or will you sink like a bag of sand?–and it’s a conscious decision. So many songs are about things happening to us, and it’s refreshing to hear a song about making a positive change for yourself. (Again, how do people do that?)

You also hear a lot of songs about partying and going crazy (YOLO!), but there aren’t many songs about letting go of inhibitions, of turning away from boredom and fear. The last verse doesn’t find Hutchison back on land, at a new home. He’s in water taller than himself, as if that was his destination all along.


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