Home Read Albums Of The Week: Frog Eyes | The Bees

Albums Of The Week: Frog Eyes | The Bees

The idiosyncratic Vancouver trio move forward by looking backward on their latest LP.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The beloved Vancouver band Frog Eyes are back. Their foray into making music as Soft Plastics is over. It’s fitting that Frog EyesCarey Mercer (vocals, guitar), Melanie Campbell (drums), and Shyla Seller (synthesizer, electric piano) — have chosen 2022 to release their latest album The Bees. This year marks the 20th anniversary of their debut LP The Bloody Hand, a record that defined a moment in the post-9/11 Pacific Northwest music scene.

From the very first guitar riffs on The Bees’ opening track Rainbow Stew, one can sense this latest album is an exploration of the past, a synthesis of what came before, a celebration of having developed a singular sound within the confines of rock music. “At some point, I started thinking a lot (too much?) about a very specific kind of pressure put on record producers, music makers, to constantly innovate or reinvent ourselves,” says Mercer.

And so, after thinking through the idea that “novelists and painters are allowed to have eras, periods, bodies of work that find a small bit of psychic space and then, over years and decades, testify to the ecology of that space,” Mercer began to write. “So I wrote songs that take in the view of my past, or explore the little stake I have made over the past 20 years of work: I thought of my past as my future, and it felt a bit radical.”

When it came time to record, Frog Eyes chose musician John Raham to engineer the album at Afterlife Studios. “Mel and I worked together to find our old energy, that push-pull trainwreck hustle we used to boogie to,” says Mercer. Once this phase was complete, Frog Eyes then lavished the recording with Shyla Seller’s keyboards, which oscillate between a deep saturated wash and a shimmering granulation.

The result is 10 songs that feel expansive — taking the listener on a whirlwind adventure to meet the ghosts of Frog Eyes past, present, and future — each track possessing the tempo necessary to incite a room filled with people to move. Inertia has no place here. All the energy of previous Frog Eyes records resides in The Bees, with the track I Was an Oligarch a triumphant reclamation of a time when 19-year-olds wore white belts and cut the hems of their pants, all for the sake of being able to dance with utter abandonment. The minor-key spells for which Frog Eyes is known are on full display in the track Scottish Wine: “These are such sad songs / But why would I write such sad sad songs / Because the memory or the grief or the sunset hits me / And yet its angle is wrong / And so I am compelled to write such sad sad songs.”

Seller notes that the lyrics of The Bees “get across the happiness, shame, and sparks of potential of life at age 21 — not in a nostalgic way, but in a way that acknowledges these glorious and embarrassing and fleeting moments as part of who you are today.” Despite the past being an inspiration for the album, the sound is fresh, brimming with the vitality of the here and now.

“And when we came to the end,” Mercer says of the recording process, “it only made sense to return, in name, to what we have always been (the band called Frog Eyes), because can you ever really sound like anything but yourselves?” With its evocative lyrics, confident instrumentation, and virtuosic ease of sound that only a decades-long collaboration can yield, The Bees is the perfect album to herald in a new era.”