Review Summary: A perfect blend of maturity and weird.
At some point, a maturity hits what we describe as “odd” or “weird”. Those adjectives don’t seem cultured enough to describe something layers. Weird, for whatever reason, is seen as far too basic of a descriptor, even though the word itself means anything but basic. We then move on to words like quirky or eclectic, words with depth, meaning, and that really mean the same thing as their predecessors, but sound more worthy of use due to their syllabic prowess. Frog has made a career out of weird. Yes, they definitely could be described as eclectic, quirky, out-of-the-box, or anything of the sort, but weird is as holistic a descriptor as any. On Count Bateman
, Frog become the closest they have to feeling as though weird is no longer an accurate description, that maybe a more mature word should be chosen. And while “quirky” seems to be the it-word to describe the not-so-straightforward brand of indie-folk that Frog envelop, Count Bateman
is right on the perfect border of weird and something more.
This is by-far the most stripped back Frog has appeared consistently across an album. What was once a duo has become the lone operation of Danny Bateman, who takes over every aspect of writing and recording on the album. There’s no chanting of the band’s name on this album, less variety in instrumentation, and less of the one-off flourishes found in their past work, and especially in their debut Kind of Blah
, all while turning up clear influence from the 70’s scene. A warm feeling envelops the entire album, one of nostalgia for memories that we don’t even have.
What Count Bateman
does to make up for the lack of those eccentricities is to completely rely on the creative liberation of Bateman, which is saying something based on his past work. The vocal melodies on the album are completely unpredictable while still being insanely catchy, with opener “Hartsdale Hotbox” being a sort of stream-of-consciousness melody that leads to an absolutely infectious chorus with layers upon layers of guitars. “Black Friday” is the first song on the album that truly relies on a drum machine, something prevalent across the album, creating a steady beat that ensure the random bursts of melody throughout the song never go off-track, even when Bateman’s dog barks and interrupts the recording, thus somehow becoming an instrument in its own right.
The entire album itself follows these methods, creating a feeling that simply feels at home, even if we’re not quite sure what home is anymore. As they have done in past releases, Frog creates a perfect mix of innocence and world-weariness that never completely veers into one lane or another. Bateman talks about all topics, from large to small, going from America itself all the way down to flea markets. The album also has the classic Frog-ism of striking imagery, where each song paints a picture and creates a story that is equal parts adorable and awkward. Standout track “It’s Something I Do” encapsulates this idea perfectly. Americana twinged with Bateman largely relying on his falsetto, he sings of a simple love story, managing to be both bright-eyed and bushy tailed yet worried that “That’s right I’m ***ed up and it can’t get any better.” On Count Bateman
, Frog doesn’t view the world as black and white, nor do they view their music that way. There is less innocence here then there was on past albums and more levels of maturity and realism. The entire thing is full of intricacies, layers, and contradictions, and just enough weirdness to get by.