Frog Eyes’ spring is more lukewarm (and uneventful) than cold.
Self Released, 2013
6.6 / 10.0
Reading Frog Eyes’ press brief regarding Carey’s Cold Spring, one gets the feeling that the momentum and spontaneity of the Polaris Prize nominated Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph won’t be as present this time around. Lead singer and songwriter Carey Mercer described the album as “deeply fearful, almost paranoid,”, and compares the record to “the sound of a person grinding his or her teeth in the night.” Indeed, this time around Mercer has crafted a more somber affair, an album influenced by experiences with death and mortality. The resulting record re-contextualizes the project’s past sound into a condensed, reflective, and poignant collection of songs, all of which seem to teeter on the edge of bombast emoting and internal struggle.
Frog Eyes is distinguished not just by Mercer’s writing, but more so by his thick, morose voice. Bearing uncanny similarities to Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, Mercer’s vocal delivery almost single-handedly account for the album’s near-morbid sound. But in truth, a casual listen of the album might not reveal the true message; hope and optimism in the face of disparity. When Carey compels us “Don’t give up your dreams,” he sounds oddly uplifting amongst crashes of symbol and guitar that feel as if they’re ready to unravel themselves.
Other tracks try just as hard (if not harder) to convey similar emotion but fall flat in resembling anything remotely moving. “Your Holiday Treat”, which features classic Frog Eyes guitar dynamics and interplay (if there is such a thing); instead, sounds like a roughed out demo, the tension between instrument and voice failing to produce the teased climatic moment. Humorously titled “Noni’s Got a Taste For the Bright Red Air Jordans” (it sounds even funnier when Mercer sings the line in his deepest bravado) sounds too much like a joke to be taken seriously, as I’m sure its supposed to be.
With repeated listens, Carey’s Cold Spring almost begins to sound too cohesive. A majority of the songs fail to distinguish themselves, often lacking any memorable moments or melodies. Although difficult to critique work that’s so visibly personal, the album’s holistic sound remains static. “The world is sick/ The world is sad/ But what’ya gonna do, man/ You just try to be glad”, proclaims Mercer on “Seven Daughters”. Trying to remind yourself of life’s silver linings isn’t an easy thing to do. With Carey’s Cold Spring, Mercer’s efforts offer himself a sense of personal consolation, rather than creating the type of engaging album that Frog Eyes have in the past.