Frog Eyes – “Bushels”
appears on Tears of the Valedictorian
Damn, these things get harder and harder to write. Collecting my thoughts about a band like Frog Eyes, with their unusual instrumentation and lead songwriter member Carey Mercer’s impenetrable lyrics, is a bit of a daunting task. But I guess that’s a big part of why I love this band – they use their music to create a very particular, idiosyncratic world, one of wild-eyed drama, overwhelming pathos and bewildering absurdity. It’s a world that no one but Mercer and his band mates could create, and feels wholly unique even when placed alongside those of some of his closest, like-minded collaborators such as Wolf Parade or Destroyer. My favourite Frog Eyes song was initially the exceptional “One in Six Children Will Flee in Boats” from The Golden River, and for the longest time I couldn’t imagine anything surpassing it. Then 2007 arrived, “Bushels” happened and it honestly wasn’t even close anymore. Mercer’s brief, sung intro is extinguished by a rapid piano theme which carries much of the song’s first half, with Mercer ducking and diving nimbly through whatever space is afforded him to make the song feel stuffed to the gills. There are numerous interesting wrinkles throughout the next six minutes, particularly via Mercer’s creative phrasing (use of repeated words for emphasis, whispered sections, stop-starts and so on) and a long instrumental passage that couples squiggly, melancholy guitar lines with some really expressive, rising and falling keys. All of this paves the way for the true magic moment of “Bushels” – its immense, emotionally exhausting coda. As the instrumentation peels back and gives Mercer some breathing space, he bellows “I was a singer inside your home”, stretching and bending every syllable until they sound like newly invented words, repeating “your home” with giddy fervour. The song swells joyously beneath his voice, propelled upward in a manner never quite celebratory but ever uplifting, accompanied by bounding percussion, sparkling tambourine and strident keys courtesy of Spencer Krug. By the end it sounds as though Mercer is absolutely lost in the experience, finishing proceedings at some lofty spiritual peak. It’s a cliché to say this but I won’t lie – that closing stretch gives me literal shivers in my spine every time I hear it.