Painting of a Panic Attack is the fifth and final studio album by Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit. The album was released on 8 April 2016, through Atlantic Records. It is the band’s only studio album to feature guitarist and keyboardist Simon Liddell, a touring member who joined them in a permanent capacity after the departure of Gordon Skene. After frontman and founding member Scott Hutchison‘s disappearance and subsequent death in 2018, the remaining members retired the Frightened Rabbit name, leaving Painting of a Panic Attack as their final album.
Following the release of their fourth studio album, Pedestrian Verse (2013), Frightened Rabbit embarked on an extensive tour in promotion of the album, a process which left the members burnt out and frustrated. Hutchison moved to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend at the time, and recorded a solo album, Owl John (2014), while the rest of the band remained in Glasgow. When the band started working on new music, the songs were transmitted via email between Hutchison and the other members. The full band reconvened in New York during the summer of 2015 to record Painting of a Panic Attack. The album was produced by Aaron Dessner, who first met Frightened Rabbit when they opened for The National in 2013.
Painting of a Panic Attack marked a departure from Frightened Rabbit’s signature sound as they began to incorporate electronic elements into their music. Dessner’s production was compared to his work with the National, a decision that was met with mixed approval from music critics. Hutchison’s lyrics and vocal performance, however, received widespread critical acclaim. Painting of a Panic Attack also did well commercially, reaching number one on the Scottish Albums Chart, number 14 on the UK Albums Chart and number 42 on the Irish Albums Chart.
Frightened Rabbit released their fourth studio album Pedestrian Verse on 4 February 2013, via Atlantic Records. As part of the album promotion, the band embarked on an extensive 18-month tour, which led to burnout and heightened tensions within the ensemble. Drummer Grant Hutchison told Jason Keil of the Phoenix New Times that they “just got run absolutely ragged […] We all lost each other and ourselves a little bit” over the tour. After the conclusion of the tour, lead vocalist and Grant’s brother Scott Hutchison moved to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend at the time. While there, he recorded a solo album, titled Owl John. Grant and the rest of Frightened Rabbit, meanwhile, remained in Glasgow.
In 2014, guitarist and keyboardist Gordon Skene decided to leave the band. In a statement on Facebook, the remaining members of Frightened Rabbit said, “There is no more to tell other than sometimes things just don’t work out and when people have differing opinions often the best option is to simply part ways and get on with life separately.” In Skene’s place, touring member Simon Liddell was brought in as a permanent guitarist and keyboardist. In an interview with Gigwise, Hutchison told Andrew Trendell, “Without going too far into it, Gordon’s personality didn’t fit with the band, and Simon’s really, really does”.
The isolation caused by spending 18 months in Los Angeles inspired much of Hutchison’s writing process going into Painting of a Panic Attack. Believing that the city itself felt “anxious”, Hutchison would take trips to Big Bear Lake, California to focus on his songwriting. In late 2014, the full band reconvened in Wales for a writing session. This meeting proved largely unproductive, as Hutchison dealt with writer’s block, which Grant believed was due to his brother “forcing himself to try something different, rather than just writing naturally and then maybe tweaking it a little bit”. The album was largely written long-distance, with Hutchison and the rest of Frightened Rabbit sending tracks back and forth via email. Grant believed that the transatlantic communication actually helped the band, because “[w]hen you’re in a room with someone […] You either hold back from saying anything or you say something and it causes offense, or it creates tension, and there was none of that.”
Hutchison met musician and producer Aaron Dessner when Frightened Rabbit toured with Dessner’s band, the National, in 2013. Following that tour, Dessner and Scott kept in communication, which the latter described as “half work, half socializing”. After initial conversations about a potential collaboration between their two bands, Hutchison told The Skinny that “it became clear that he was interested in making the album!” Frightened Rabbit convened with Dessner in the summer of 2015 for two weeks of initial recording sessions at Dreamland Recording Studios in Hurley, New York, not far from Woodstock. After a two-week break,Painting of a Panic Attack was finished at Dessner’s home studio, Aaron’s Garage, in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.