What is most apparent about Frog Eyes is the energy, strangeness, and sincerity of lead singer Carey Mercer. He’s like a Canadian Tim Harrington who listened to too many Cure records growing up. His voice keens, howls, and bends like Robert Smith’s mixed with Jonathan Davis and Isaac Brock. Once in a while, as in “The Heart that Felt its Light,” he sounds a little like the bastard child of Frank Black and Nick Cave, if ever such an unholy union could come to pass. And even further, for instance in the song “Ice on the Trail,” Mercer sounds like Bobcat Goldthwait.
The music of Frog Eyes has been described in the past as psych-folk, and compared alongside such acts as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. Their latest album, The Folded Palm sounds much more in the vein of fellow Canadian Destroyer or rock opera carnival music. I suppose I just repeated myself. Oh well.
While some might find the album unlistenable, I would merely tell them to hang in there and give it a few turns on the ol’ disc player, or iPod or whatever else the kids seem to have these days. I would give this advice because that’s what happened to me. Upon first listen I thought that my head would explode. I just wasn’t ready for it. But then again I had the same experiences with Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West and Built to Spill’s Perfect from Now On. Sure, songs like “New Tappy is Heard and Beheld” might still be skipped every once in a while, but you’ll find yourself resting on “The Oscillator’s Hum” and maybe even pressing repeat on that one.
Mercer and company still have a way with song titles and lyrics as is evident in both Frog Eyes’ releases and Mercer’s solo album. In the aforementioned “New Tappy is Heard and Beheld,” Mercer seems to go utterly batshit as he squelches out “Little bird: fuck your bird: fucking bird: howl when you call bake when the sun jumps in the meadow.” Jeepers! Other titles jump out like “Important Signals Will Break the Darkness (this I Hope)” and “A Library Used to Be (black hole and its concentrated edges)”. They’re not quite up to Minus the Bear snuff, but they’re getting close. Then you have the simple title, comparatively, in “I Like Dot Dot Dot,” which features just two lines of lyrics, “Oh ain’t nobody going to fuck the son: I’ll send it to you.” They sure do like the f-bomb, don’t they?
If you like your rock straightforward, this might not be the album for you. If, on the other hand, you like to be surprised, to be taken off of your guard, and to sometimes be shocked and utterly dazed by avant garde and, dare I say, arty music with an absolutely nutty vocalist, then Frog Eyes is your band. If you find Les Savy Fav just not exciting or daring enough, then Frog Eyes is your band. If you think Robert Smith doesn’t change pitch suddenly enough for you, then Frog Eyes is your band. In fact, they’re not just your band, they’re your house band.