Dan Bateman, lead singer and guitarist of Frog, writes that their new album, Kind of Blah, is “an attempt to engage modern musical ideas from a 1950s style of arrangement, and a was a complete failure in that respect but a success in most others.” The album drops May 25th on London indie label Audio Antihero.
Frog cites many 1950’s and classic country influences. Those influences aren’t readily apparent at first listen, but upon repeated (and repeated) spins of Kind of Blah, I recognize what Bateman meant. The songs ache with a particular type of confessional honesty, one that classic stars like Hank Williams traded in. In Hank’s day, you could just say “I’m so lonesome I could cry,” but nowadays it’s a little tougher.
I watched you from the kitchen window
I want to call you I just play nintendo
Croons Bateman on catchyalater, the 8th track on Kind of Blah.
Repeated mentions of sodas, Metrocards, late-night McDonalds, and video games make this record feel like it comes from somewhere a few layers underneath the skin. Scenes of lonely Queens, nighttime drives around New York City, desperate sex in tiny apartments, and even Patrick Ewing build a character behind the tunes as well. You feel like you’re inhabiting someone’s mind, someone sensitive, a little bit desperate, who might fall too hard for the wrong girl or just be too afraid to talk to her.
The above video is for All Dogs Go To Heaven, the lead track, which sets the tone sonically for the rest of the album. Get ready for vocals pushed deep into the mix, found sounds and skillful guitar playing matching perfectly with youthful, snappy drumming. Bateman’s vocals are woven into the rest of the music rather than soaring above it, but it works exquisitely. I hear elements of samamidon‘s deadpan vocal delivery, The Silver Jews, and brief moments of low-level noiseyness a la Can. There’s also a kazoo solo.
This record is one of my favorite new pieces of music in a long time. It’ll make you ache inside, which will remind you, after this long winter, that you can still ache, which will in turn remind you that you can be happy, be in love, any number of feelings. It sounds like the tires of a solitary car underneath the 7 train splashing through puddles after a downpour in the spring. Frog knows how to write a song, and even more how to put an album together.
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