Frog Eyes

Carey's Cold Spring

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Carey's Cold Spring, one of the less elusive Frog Eyes titles, arrived after a four-year hiatus that saw frontman Carey Mercer endure the death of his father and receive a cancer diagnosis. While melancholy, madness, and despair have always cast a long shadow in the Frog Eyes world, the band's sixth long-player feels, appropriately so, the most immediate in its woe, both lyrically and musically. While Carey's Cold Spring retains an undercurrent of the nervy, post-punk fervor that fueled earlier albums, it's been thinned out by the impersonal, punitive realities of life. What appears in its stead is hardly dispassionate or devoid of musical left turns, but it's certainly less impenetrable than it has been in the past, despite a predilection for bulletproof song titles like "Noni's Got a Taste for the Bright Red Air Jordans" and "Duration of Starts and Lines That Form Code." Opener "The Road Is Long" sets the more measured tone with a slowly rolling lament that evokes Boatman's Call-era Nick Cave, framing Mercer's dark and often beautiful lyrics against a stormy sonic backdrop of Spaghetti Western guitar and equally canyon-esque reverb. Mercer's voice, once a fevered blend of drunken carnival barker and fire and brimstone street preacher, has matured into a deep and mournful, yet still reliably elastic, blend of modern day Ian McCulloch and Arcade Fire's Win Butler, and this reasonably less affected approach lends an almost spiritual clarity to standouts like "The Country Child" and "Your Holiday Treat," the latter of which feels cut from the same red velvet fabric as fellow Canadians Timbre Timbre's very Twin Peaks-ian Hot Dreams. Still, Mercer is an acquired taste, and Carey's Cold Spring is hardly a joy to listen to, but it houses some truly powerful moments, and what's best is that for once they're delivered with a hint of subtlety.

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