Frog Eyes The Folded Palm

[Absolutely Kosher; 2004]

Styles: folk-pop, folk, indie-pop
Others: Neutral Milk Hotel, David Bowie

Something has been festering in the collective Canadian heart these past years. Our idiosyncratic neighbors to the north have had a ringside seat to watch the progressive and agonizing descent of our once proud homeland in the eyes of the rest of the world (and honestly, anyone who holds commonsense to be a virtue). I must say I've noticed Canadians taking less of a goodhearted ribbing lately; and truth being, this is because they now have justified retorts. It must be a unique perspective to be perched right atop, yet mostly isolated from such pointed, whispering tumult below. Carey Mercer, the lead performer in the oft lauded British Columbia four piece, Frog Eyes, has apparently been seething silently and mostly to himself these years gone by, but with The Folded Palm, the band's third proper LP, he can stay silent about the recent course of world events no longer. Though not overtly Canadian in sentiment, Mercer is a worthy spokesman for the progressively rising dissent of a world not long for this world.

The Folded Palm is scathingly mournful of a feminine ideal (yes, I've read The DaVinci Code, it was ok, a bit predictable near the end though) that has become lost from all that ever was and spews venom at the unabashed machismo that corners the inhabitants of this floating sphere into habitual and felonious aggression. As it stands, this album finds Frog Eyes more properly translating the intensity and swagger of their live show into the studio setting. "The Fence Feels Its Post" opens the record with a midtempo stomp and strut; Mercer yelps and spouts with spitfire diatribe of social collapse, as he wonders "Where was the world that was tender and frail?/ Who's gonna look after me?" Anxiety, distress, and constant sparring are laid out as the crux of the problem and we need not wait much longer for a possible cause of this. Standing as thus far possibly my second favorite Frog Eyes song of their entire catalog, "The Akhian Press" follows with a slight shimmer of guitar over the double timed drum progression as Mercer's vocals lead glidingly up to an absolutely breathtaking symphonic chorus (that I have yet to be able to turn up loud enough) as the culprit(s) is(are) named, "oh bleak satellite/ with grace in a semblance of empirical might." It becomes clearer as the album progresses that while the conflict is a generalized and archetypal one, the modern metaphor of present day America serves as a fertile platform to build a case upon.

Interspersed throughout are both songs of pointed criticism and denunciation of those among us who would denigrate the maternal fostering of compassion and tenderness in our kind, and anthems of protection and solace bestowed upon the undying matriarch. "New Tappy Is Heard And Beheld" does not beat around the bush (pun? Yes.) in its frustrated and blistering disillusionment as "when sun rises, those Americans sing ‘birth right'…Fuck your bird!" And the case is brought straight to George himself in the call-to-arms tone of "The Oscillator Hums" while still lending a message of strength and perseverance to the goddess within us. For truly, the conflict is within each of our bodies as Mercer has come to the realization that he too "was cut from evil faring but my nurse knows my health." And so the result is locally a personal choice as to which of our dueling natures we wish to let take hold of us; but no matter the choice of one mere man, when the forces controlling him, be it lawmakers or religion, set the overall tone of the populous, our voices are often rendered powerless and dull to the course of the global picture. What else can arise from the seeming of impotence but revolt? This climaxes in "Ice On The Trail," which simply sounds like the soundtrack to a slow but arduously fought out death. Mercer's straining, distorted growl breathes fire at the "conservatives" and "power pushers" that would choose to belittle our human spirit so, as underwater pianos pound out a measured two chord interplay.

Resolution is not found, and conclusion is spotty at best, but such are the results of more battles than the majority of us would like to admit. The closing track, "Russian Berries but You're Quiet Tonight," serves as a warning that "even cancer needs a home" and so best pay heed to the messengers, the message, and the daughters who hold our future but will only shine forth if we loosen the shackles on them and deaden Cain once and for all. Musically, The Folded Palm is mostly as aggressive as the fabled nemesis it derides, though not without its achingly tender moments as if conjuring the spirit of what the hoped victory would grace us with. Bottom line: Frog Eyes has made another amazing album.

1. The Fence Feels Its Post
2. The Akhian Press
3. I Like Dot Dot Dot
4. Bells In The Crooked Port
5. New Soft Motherhood Alliance
6. Ship Destroyer
7. The Heart That Felt Its Light
8. The Oscillator Hums
9. Important Signals Will Break The Darkness (this I hope)
10. New Tappy Is Heard And Beheld
11. Ice On The Trail
12. Russian Berries but You're Quiet Tonight

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