You pick up your iPod and pretend you have a decision to make. You lie to yourself that you might try something new. You don't. You press play on The Midnight Organ Fight. Again. You think to yourself: I will never be able to stop listening to this album.

Every once in a while, an album comes along that completely floors you. It feels like it's living in the space between your ears; lyrics and musical phrases play themselves over and over in your mind; silence doesn't sound like silence anymore. It sounds like The Midnight Organ Fight.

You worry that you've reached the end of your musical road, that this your thousandth plateau, your Sisyphean curse: you'll spend the rest of your life listening to The Midnight Organ Fight and when you get to the end it will start all over again. And you'll want it to. This must be why your Dad stopped listening to new music in 1976: it's not that Station to Station is Dad music, it's that David Bowie cast his spell and it never got broken.

This is astonishingly rare, and that's why it's so special. It's happened to me on possibly three or four other occasions. Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight consumed me for two or three months in the spring of 2009. It would have been next to impossible for anything they did next to have quite the same impact but nevertheless, 2010's The Winter of Mixed Drinks and 2013's Pedestrian Verse were hugely worthy follow-ups, transferring Organ Fight's lyrical adventurousness to a slicker, more rounded and filled-out production style.

Their fifth album, Painting of a Panic Attack, was released last month and arguably marks the first major break in the Frightened Rabbit sound: it isn't just cleaner and calmer, but sees the band experimenting texturally far more, playing with build-and-release tension to create their most sonically and thematically unified album since Organ Fight.

Scott Hutchison, the band's frontman and songwriter, strikes that perfect balance between inimitable charisma and relatable everyman. Like Elbow's Guy Garvey, you get the sense he could play a sold-out Wembley Stadium one night and then rock up at his local's open mic session the next.

It is not to say anything against St John at Hackney - a beautiful venue in its own right - to say that I was slightly surprised when Frightened Rabbit announced they would be performing here on their long-awaited return to London. I last saw the band at a sold-out Shepherd's Bush Empire, itself a bigger venue, and would have expected to see an act of this stature headlining one of the capital's more traditional locations for an established act with five albums under their belt.

"Maybe for me that was a sense of mild paranoia having been away for three years," Hutchison says when I speak to him from one of the labyrinthine venue's back rooms. "We sort of undershot because you don't really know how many people are going to still be interested. It's on a precipice when we booked these shows a couple of months ago, the album wasn't out, I had no idea and it's difficult to gauge. We'll know the situation the next time around, maybe it'll be slightly larger!"

These worries strike me as odd, but it is a point Hutchison comes back to again during the show when he thanks the audience for still being interested in his band. "Fuck what your friends in Hoxton are listening to," he beams after rattling through the opening duo of 'Get Out' and 'Holy'. "You're in a church watching Frightened Rabbit."

After Hutchison's much-discussed move to Los Angeles, this insecurity seems indicative of a man physically isolated from the communities that until now had fostered the sense that anyone "would still be interested." It also, perhaps, speaks of someone deeply in touch with the 'blogosphere' and hyper-aware of its fast pace, its occasional unfortunate myopia and amnesiac tendencies.

At the same time as having helped to build Frightened Rabbit up to where they are - the Line of Best Fit, for instance, named The Midnight Organ Fight as its album of the year for 2008 at a time when Frightened Rabbit was only just starting to get any attention in the mainstream press - Internet chroniclers of alternative music in the early 21st century are nothing if not avid seekers of the new, and though it seems baffling that a band this great, this damn popular, should worry about getting fans through the door, it isn't necessarily that surprising.

There's also a sense that Frightened Rabbit, despite building their audience with every album, have managed to cling onto that sense of exclusivity, the sense that every one of their listeners is a fully paid-up member of the Frightened Rabbit Fan Club ('The Modern Lepers'?), each with a 'Furry Brick Built Man' patch sewn crudely onto their backpacks. Organ Fight, in particular, won the plaudits it did because of its unflinching and startling intimacy, an intimacy Hutchison might not have consciously eschewed with later albums but to which he has still never really returned.

In fact, Panic Attack is probably is probably as close as he's come to recapturing that rawness. Like Organ Fight, it is a record which broadly describes a single emotional journey - about his move to California and the cocoon he and his girlfriend built for themselves. The real success of the album is in capturing the ambiguity and conflicting emotion that move caused.

"A lot of people assumed this was Frightened Rabbit going Hollywood," laughs Hutchison. "And that was kind of the problem, it wasn't that at all. It got to the point where my girlfriend and I looked at each other and thought, 'What are we getting out of this city? We have no really good reason to be here.' So it was a bold move but it sort of had to happen. She was the only reason I moved there. I have friends out there but, you know, the majority of them are there for that. One of them's a camera man and one produces music videos and that's a job where Los Angeles is going to work for you. I was just kind of writing away in a similar situation to always."

"I think you've got so many creative things going on there, obviously a massive amount of entertainment industry is based there but it sort of feels like a closed door, in a very different way to how Glasgow operates. And that's why it's such a fertile music scene, there's just such many opportunities to be social with one another, and that's how good stuff comes about. I think most of the best ideas in Scotland and the north of England are born in the pub."

Though it is interesting to talk to Hutchison about his time in LA - it's interesting to talk to him about most things - it feels to me that the whole thing is a bit of a maguffin in the overall narrative, the kind of thing that once you know, you can hear evidence of everywhere, but if anything kind of detracts from the overall effect. Hutchison is not Mark Kozelek or even Jens Lekman, whose narrative songs are rooted in specificity, illuminated by concrete detail. Scott Hutchison writes songs about things that have happened to him, sure, but they've happened to you, too.

The Midnight Organ Fight was about the end of Hutchison's relationship with a girlfriend. It's also about my break-up and yours, too. Painting of a Panic Attack is about Hutchison's dislocation and isolation in Los Angeles, but it's about that drifting rootlessness we've all felt after setting up somewhere new, with someone new. 'Soundtrack to your life' is an overused cliché in music journalism, but Hutchison's songs seek that kind of universality; Frightened Rabbit fans have, in more senses than one, grown up with the band's music.

"I think that the thing about playing those old songs now is they sort of play like a little movie in my head," he explains. "Similar imagery crops up whenever I'm going through them. Obviously the emotion is long gone. A lot of the songs on this album still feel quite fresh to me and I think at some point, there are actually only so many things you can write about, or that I can. But there are always new ways to write about those things, and I guess it's nice to hear that it's grown up a little because there are always new ways of expressing these things that have been occurring in various different ways. Different versions of the same event."

By way of illustration, I point to 'Still Want to Be Here', which both lyrically and musically shows a previously unseen maturity in Frightened Rabbit's music. In some ways it shares a lyrical sensibility with Pedestrian Verse's 'The Woodpile' - in which the narrator takes comfort in his isolation from the outside world - but instead of a defiant, fist-pumping chorus, it turns toward the low-key; 'I Still Want to Be Here' shows an emotional conflict being worked out and rationalised, not railed against.

This, says Hutchison, was thanks at least in part to the National's Aaron Dessner, who was brought on board as the album's producer.

"That version that's on the album is probably iteration number six or seven of that song," Hutchison says. "We tried to make it a big muscular number and eventually it got to where it is, and it's absolutely right, that's totally where it should be. But that wouldn't be our natural setting, because I'm very much like... Aaron had to deny us the guitars quite a lot, and that was uncomfortable but sometimes something you're uncomfortable with can be good. I hated that song until it got to the final pass and it was just like, 'Oh, it's gorgeous!'

"I think I wanted to allow a little bit more romance to seep into this album as well. Because it's not a break-up album. It's an album about being out of step with your surroundings and being, you know, completely absorbed by one other person, and I think it's about the two of us planning our escape."

Dessner's input is audible throughout Panic Attack; it is an album studded with what Hutchison calls "Nationalisms"-- though, as he admits, Nationalisms have been present on Frightened Rabbit albums since the bands' shared producer Peter Katis introduced the two around eight years ago, and would have been there "with or without [Dessner's] hand."

"He understood the history of our band and then I think he tried to take it from an outsider's perspective even though he was very involved in the songs," says Hutchison. "I don't think there's a song on the album that he doesn't play on. And he was really involved from the start.

"There's one song that Aaron had a real wrestle with, 'Lump Street', and he sort of disliked it for a really long time and he grew into it and he shaped it differently so that he could get into it but hopefully I want to get him up to play on that at Latitude. He used to call it 'Lump Ass' cos he thought it was stinking, so I'm going to make him play it that day."

If the main narrative around Panic Attack has been 'Frightened Rabbit does California', the sub-plot has been Dessner's involvement. Ian Cohen's review for Pitchfork was far from alone in its assessment that "Dessner's charges end up sounding like his main band," which is only half fair. The National's key strength has always been their collective feel for dynamics, for where a song needs to lift-off and where it needs to simply settle in. Dessner, explains Hutchison, "described our back catalogue as often quite frantic, or grasping for attention a little bit too much." Painting of a Panic Attack's similarities with Trouble Will Find Me certainly don't begin and end with this, but it is where they are most apparent.

"I think what he helped us to do with this album is not grasp for those moments quite so much, there's a little bit more subtlety, even though there are still big moments," says Hutchison. "But they were allowed to be there because they should be. He didn't allow anything to be dragged in a direction that it didn't want to go in, so when a chorus didn't have to be an enormous kick in, he put the kibosh on that."

It's not too hard to sympathise with those who feel this has taken the band too far away from their roots, since the greatest Frightened Rabbit songs of the past have been characterised by precisely that rush and swell, those rough edges, the palpable feeling that Hutchison might well not make it out the other side of this chorus. Yet for all that, Panic Attack marks a departure, it is still grounded in Hutchison's self-aware, self-effacing lyrics and, despite the album's themes and its backstory, it is still a record that has far more of Holyrood than Hollywood.

"I think that's something that just comes from our foundation as a band, really," Hutchison says, commenting on what he terms the "post-Franz Ferdinand-era" of Scottish music.

"I think Franz Ferdinand are great but with everything like that there comes a slew of bands in their wake that are sort of trying to do something similar but it comes across as a little bit contrived," he says. "And then there was us and the Twilight Sad and others hitting the scene, and we both found each other trying to do something else at that point in time. Obviously neither of us really giving much of a shit about our style, and it was just a music that was trying to bring substance into it again. We both found that we individually, without knowing about the other band, just naturally sang in our own accents and that was a big thing at the time, because there wasn't a lot of that going around."

Now based in Hudson, New York - "a vast improvement from Los Angeles" - Hutchison is more settled, emotionally and geographically, than he has been since leaving his native Scotland. He joked in the build-up to Winter of Mixed Drinks that he "couldn't do another break-up album, 'cause I haven't had one this year!", now he is faced with the problem of not being able to do another "Lost in Hollywood" album, though he doesn't feel his own well of American creativity is dry just yet.

"It was sometimes a bit of a struggle to find a proper social hub in LA, something that I'd been kind of accustomed to in Scotland," he says. "I think it can become strangely lonely for such an enormous city and that as something I didn't see coming. So in order to counteract that, Hudson has this brilliant little community of musicians and artists, it's almost like a little Brooklyn neighbourhood supplanted to the countryside. it's on the opposite coast, a little bit closer to home. I moved there before Christmas and it was like immediately just breathing a sigh of relief."

Ultimately, Hutchison says - and really, this is probably an apt summation of what keeps Panic Attack feeling like a Frightened Rabbit album, and not a 'what-if' alternative dimension album where Matt Berninger is Scottish - his music is "really about just laying it bare and being honest about where you're from."

Frightened Rabbit's Painting Of a Panic Attack is out now. Read our review of it by heading here.