Blending together like a hardbound collection of short stories, vivid and haunting, with only the brief pause between tracks to tell you that one tale has ended and another is to begin, so goes Frog Eyes’ fourth album, Tears of The Valedictorian. The proper follow up to 2004’s The Folded Palm, Tears continues in a similar vein of lo-fi weirdness and bite sized epic proportions. Frontman Carey Mercer’s voice warbles with the timelessness of someone who’s experienced precisely what he’s singing about, no matter how oblique or abstract, though it’s hard for one to imagine how Mercer subsisted over the tragedies compelling this collection of frantic songs.
Not questioning and letting the music speak for itself is rightly the only way to fully appreciate the swirling absurdity of the album opener “Idle Songs,” and all other eight tracks that follow, each one a surreal and swelling symphony in itself. “Caravan Breakers” is the most prominent, accessible track, as well as second longest (the number one being “Bushels”) and the dramatic, strained voice of Mercer captures the raw vulnerability of one striving to make their life more supplementary over muddled drum beats and jarring chords.
Intuitively moving into songs like “Reform the Countryside,” an indirect channeling anticipating the downfall (and what else?) the reformation of a sinister town, and the churning keyboards of “Evil Energy, The Twin Of…” provoke the listener to abandon the songster and the majesty of his dwarves. Nine-minute giant “Bushels” contrasts whimpering vocals, which sound reminiscent of Bowie, speckled against the pummeling of the keyboard and bass.
Ending with the solitary lyric of “Into the water, My boats will go,” there’s a certain longing left in the listener, and when the farewell refrain ends, there’s a sense of despondency in the air. Trafficking in trippy energy and lush imagery is what makes Tears of the Valedictorian feel like a jaunt to the past, and both of these distinct characteristics are also what make up an inimitable band’s best release yet.