Review Summary: Frog Eyes' 5th sounds like Wolf Parade at their best and most chaotic and is one of the best albums of '07 so far.
The members of Frog Eyes seem to have an affinity for band names that feature animals; the group’s members have played major roles in both Swan Lake and Wolf Parade. Of course, since animal names are all the rage, this isn’t really a problem with the scarf-wearers of Earth. When you add their “hip” name, their ties to Wolf Parade and the simple fact that Tears of the Valedictorian
is easily one of the best records of the year, you have a real formula for success in the indie community, though Frog Eyes are far from new-comers to the scene ( Tears
is their 5th album).
Singer Carey Mercer drives the record; there is no doubt about this. His vocals bear an equal resemblance to both fellow Canadian Win Butler and that of a rabid, black preacher man, who just might be listening to too much Captain Beefheart for his own good. His lyrics are inaudible underneath frantic yips and animal sounds and, once read, make just as little sense. On Caravan Breakers, They Prey On the Weak and the Old
he begins with something along the lines of “Oh, hate so bad from the jumping pounding pad/When the crystal in the mountain made the early morning sad/I know not the remnants of the cold lieutenant’s dad”
and finishes by chanting “Woohooo, I want a belly made of gold”
in a tone reminiscent of Animal Collective’s Avey Tare.
Mercer’s band mates aren’t much less manic with their playing either. Drummer (and Mercer’s wife) Melanie Campbell is excellent, whether she is pounding out relatively intricate rhythms underneath her bandmate’s chaotic and noisy playing on Evil Energy, the Ill Twin Of…
or playing patty-cake with keyboardist Spencer Krug’s barroom piano on the stellar Bushels
. The guitar, very affected, dense and brilliant, has a strong presence on Tears of the Valedictorian
, though it sometimes plays second fiddle to Krug’s keyboard pounding (like on the Arcade Fire-esque Idle Songs
Though much of Valedictorian
is heavy in a frantic, dense and very Indie way, Frog Eyes occasionally let moments of relatively quiet peace slip through the cracks. Such is the case with The Policy Merchant, The Silver Bay
. The Policy Merchant is a folksy tune, comprised of only a single acoustic guitar and Mercer’s slightly annoying falsetto. Said track could easily garner comparisons to Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective and really provides a break from the rest of the album, which kind of brings to mind Wolf Parade at their best, and most hectic. Really, the second half of 2007 is going to have to be stacked to stop Frog Eyes from making it into my ‘top 10 of the year’ list and, if the rest of Frog Eyes’ catalog is as good as this, I’ve got some heavy listening in front of me.