Posts Tagged ‘audio antihero’

Frog at Digital Fix

The latest signing to the unfathomably consistent Audio Antihero label arrives in the form of Frog – a New York based lo-fi pop duo crafting exactly the kind of tunes you wished Modest Mouse were still writing. Tom White and Dan Bateman’s music may sound stripped back on the surface but listen hard enough and you’ll find this is anything but skin deep.

Blessed with the ability to turn seemingly nonsensical streams of thought into musical poetry, Kind of Blah perfectly documents the inner erraticism of their oddly engaging world view. Opener ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’ rolls in with a muddy strum of guitar and hushed vocals before kicking off into a sinister ear-worm of humdrum wordplay – “If all dogs go to heaven / And all dames ache for Daniel Day / Fuck with me darling and I’ll make you pay”. While Frog are often happy to wallow in the darker recesses of life, their downtrodden perceptions are almost always backed up by a wry, humourous pay off.

The intense, lyrical gushing on penultimate track ‘Judy Garland’ will have you clutching at Bateman’s every word in awe and bafflement, such is the distinct oddness of his delivery. Somehow the pair have turned the deceased star’s final moments into an uplifting jangle without falling towards tastelessness – “Judy Garland hit the bathroom floor of her cold apartment ‘bove a Chelsea store/ And all the drag queens and all the whores / Couldn’t get poor Judy back up off her laurels”.

Much like the rest of Audio Antihero’s output, this isn’t an album for passive spinning. Frog have written an LP you’ll want to faun over and adore even when it confuses the hell out of you. The best artists never bare all on arrival and this is no different. Give it spin. And then another – until it makes sense.


Frog at Pittsburgh in Tune

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t yet heard of New York-based based indie rock duo Frog. Their 2013 self-titled debut EP failed to make much of an impact in the United States, though Scottish music blog GoldFlakePaint and British webzine Drowned in Sound heralded the album as one of the year’s best.

Frog — Dan Bateman on guitar and vocals, Thomas White on drums — spent most of 2014 fine-tuning their sound with countless live performances and have seen fit to make their full-length debut with the rock-solid “Kind of Blah.” Recorded in an old bowling alley, the 11-track platter shows a great deal of promise.

Notes Bateman: “(The new record) was an attempt to engage modern musical ideas from a 1950s style of arrangement, and was a complete failure in that respect but a success in most others.”

Things get of to a so-so start with middling opener “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” but Frog soon find their stride with standouts like “F***king,” “Wish Upon a Bar,” personal favorite “Knocking on the Door,” “Catchyalater” and “Judy Garland.” Keep an eye on Bateman and White.


Frog at Collapse Board

Oh, god. Help me, words. Help me convey what a blessing Frog is.

The moment the guitars trickle in on “All Dogs to Heaven”, I am transported. The warm twang that rings throughout the LP sounds woody, tangible, distinctly not modern. I think about “Ventura Highway”, and I try to remember when that sandy southwestern air still sparked my imagination, and all those stories about cowboys singing lullabies and horses with no names and lives in the fast lane still flashed in my head. Frog are none of those things – rather, in Kind of Blah, we see the city, and the people who live there, and the events that touch their lives.

But can we get back to the SOUND, this gorgeous warped floorboard SOUND – the warbly ancient piano, banjos both tame and wooly, synths that hum and glimmer gently like the old yellowy lamp by your bed. And of course the voices. The harmony. The aching, the joy, the wobbly keel.

And I’m thinking about you, “Catchyalater”, and how every time I come to you, I have to pick you up again. Something about those “oooohs”. Something about the piano dying at the end. Something about “would you like a Diet Coke, I’m buyin / and if you say you don’t, I know you’re lyin”, or “And I see you from the kitchen window / wanna call you, I just play Nintendo”, and the ways that lovers shift uneasily to friends.


’m thinking about you, too, “Judy Garland”, and the huge limelight of a chorus lit on the fallen actress. It’s the greatest song that Mumford & Songs never wrote – and never will, since they’ve dropped their postcard pastoral aesthetic (which would never touch anything deeper than a metaphysical heartache, anyway) and sunken to a new low of anonymity. Frog, on the other hand, use a rousing pop sound to zoom in on a footnote of America’s cultural memory – which is what “folk” should do anyway, isn’t it?

Mind, I can’t always make out Dan Bateman’s rapid rambles, especially on the riot-and-a-half, Meat Puppet-y rodeo of “King Kong”. But I catch these moments – the big bosoms of the waitresses on “All Dogs…”, the Lynyrd Skynyrd blaring into the back seat on the rambunctious “Fucking”, the coffee-stained photograph plucked off the floor and cut down to wallet-size on the stomping Modest Mouse barnraiser of “Knocking On The Door”. You see these snapshots, and they stick.

And besides, not everything need be clear when so much anger, glee, yearning, angst, hysteria bleeds into every word. I might tell you, for instance, that “Everything 2002” opens with a speaker reminiscing about the dirty magazines and hidden DVDs stashed in a treehouse, and you might think it’s silly. But actually, the synths hug you close like your own private hideaway under the cupboard. “I run where no one can see / then they’ll console me”. I still marvel at how Frog can do this – that is, swirl the serious and the funny and the prosaic together and steal your breath away even after you’ve heard the whole album half a dozen times. Especially in the final track – not “Bad Boy”, but the hidden one just after that, where drummer Thomas White drops into a jazzy shuffle and someone croons on a kazoo like he’s that sax-toting loser in “Deacon Blue”.

I’m reminded constantly of Paul Simon for some reason – the ear for harmony, the intimate expertise of a city that comes from wandering for wandering’s sake (“Wish Upon the Bar” demonstrates both of these beautifully), the stories shared about run-ins at the supermarket , the instantly impressionable similes. Like in “Judy Garland” – “wanna put my foot down on Manhattan /make it float back like a boogie board”.

Above all, this is just wonderful. Frog are two guys you can love, without shame or irony. And I fear that, if I say much more, I’ll destroy their charm. And that, methinks, is what so many bands lack – charm, real flawed charm, like the charm you see in the friend that always turns up an hour late but also always tips the bartender. Kind of Blah may not grace the airwaves or garner any industry awards, but you can touch it and hug it and hang out with it and eat pizza with it and be best buds for a long, long time.


Frog at Sputnik Music

For a lo-fi recording that tops out at just thirty six minutes, Frog’s sophomore album Kind of Blahpacks an unprecedented punch. It’s the kind of record that sounds like it should merely float by, traveling in one ear and out the other without leaving much of an impression. After all, that’s what a large portion of lo-fi music has become – this aimless pursuit of something ethereal or transcendent with no underlying purpose. Kind of Blah doesn’t fit into that category. For one thing, it was recorded under an old New York City bowling alley, lending it an inimitable acoustic quality. But the appeal of this album, and to a larger extent the band, extends well beyond the atmosphere they’ve created. Frog fills this piece to the brim with strange instrumental choices and the most atypical of musings, lending it a robust and refreshingly forthright personality that’s difficult not to relish. Simply put, Kind of Blah is the opposite of what its title suggests.

Frog has a distinct personality that is hard to mimic. Everything they do feels like it was accomplished for a specific purpose pertaining to their own lives, with unique lyrics like “I poured kerosene on my old dirty magazines, Mom and Dad don’t be mad at me”, and “Fuck with me darling and I’ll make you pay.” It’s the kind of album you return to for the sheer fact that it’s utterly different, and lead singer/guitarist Dan Bateman sprinkles these candidly frank gems throughout the record to ensure that the experience is both odd and emotional at the same time. In Kind of Blah, you can hear traces of Neutral Milk Hotel, Los Campesinos!, and even The Antlers. Frog’s reach extends all over the collective indie radar, but the taste of their influences is impeccable and it shows in the way they subtly pay homage to each one. One of the most enjoyable tracks on the whole album is ‘Fucking’, which mildly recalls Vacation era Bomb The Music Industry!, as it glides atop Thomas White’s energetic drumming and the occasional emotionally-tinted glockenspiel which is thrown in for good measure. The catchiest part of the refrain is just Bateman melodically singing “Fucking all the time”, and that’s part of what makes Kind of Blah so easy to get along with. Frog feels like your neighbor’s garage band, with the caveat that they’re actually incredibly talented.

While Kind of Blah certainly balances its slow pace and minimal atmosphere with a carefree sense of youth, some of the best moments on the record are its most gloomy and stripped-down ones. ‘Bad Boy’ comes to mind instantaneously, commencing with applause before delving into an artist bearing his soul on stage acoustic atmosphere. Haunting ooh’s drive the sense that this track means more to Bateman than all the others combined, although it may not even be true. It does pick up the pace slightly before falling back onto a gentle, cloud-like acoustic outro. If you’re looking for Frog at its most heartfelt, there is no need to search any farther. ‘Everything 2002’ succeeds in a similar vein, consisting of little more than synthesizers that almost resemble a pan flute underneath Bateman’s exhausted-sounding laments. Everything about Kind of Blah is instrumentally barren, which lends itself to such soft confessionals. Not all of them are potent masterpieces, but at the very least Frog always throws something into the mix to make each song totally unique from the other eleven on record. When executed correctly, less can be more – and on Kind of Blah, that is certainly the case.

Frog is the kind of imperfect band that we all love to root for. Sometimes they sound like they’re a beer away from losing their shit, but most of the time they’re just laid back and trying to have some fun while hopefully also selling a couple records in the process. They’re you and me, and because they openly and honestly pour themselves into their music, it’s easy to attach a special bond to them. Sometimes Kind of Blah is a little too reckless for its own good. Sometimes the songs don’t have the desired effect. No, it’s definitely not a perfect album – but then again that was never the aim. Here, Frog has crafted something truly different, uniquely flawed, and indisputably special. And that’s kind of awesome.


Frog at Austin Town Hall

Have you spent any of your time listening to Frog? No? Then prepare yourself for something quite special, something you’ll rush to share with your friends, hoping to be the coolest kid on the block.  This new single from their upcoming album, Kind of Blah, is a number that builds layer upon layer, working first with vocals, then adding and adding until listeners are carried away by the power of song.  This is one of those tunes that erases the world around you, leaving you to find yourself at one with the song before you.  Look for the band’s album to hit on May 25th via Audio Antihero.

Click through for a track!


Frog at Whisperin’ and Hollerin’

Well, calling your album Kind Of Blah is a hostage to fortune as it makes this reviewer go “blah blah blah, is there a thing I wanna hear on it?” And really, is there?

It opens with All Dogs Go to Heaven: a mellow moper with whine-y vocals and sort of OK keyboard sounds, but at best it’s background music.

We Then Jump Into Bed for Fucking could almost be a Mercury Rev outtake with some desperate sounding vocals. It in no way sounds romantic or the sort of song you’d want to be fucking too. Well maybe some virginal dweebs are listening and dreaming of fucking to it but not actually doing the deed

Wish Upon A Bar punningly re-works a classic song title but fails to manage to be a classic song in the process although it has some nice harmonies. It is so slight as to be a lily pad that isn’t quite strong enough for a frog to sit and it has some rather oddly distracting cymbal work. Photograph, meanwhile, opens like it wants of be Luna or Galaxie 500 and sort of almost pulls it off.

Everything 2002 sounds nothing like that year to me but has a church organ-goes-indie feel to it, a rather slight but interesting tune and I like the bells I keep hearing on it.

Knocking On the Door opens like it should be a blues song before going very wimpy indie and sort of back to the blues again. I wish it had just stayed as a blues song as it’s pretty good In those bits. Worst of all are the bits that remind me of Jonah & The Whale.

King Kong is just mad, totally off the wall and I want it to stop now please. No I don’t need that glockenspiel coming in…

Catchyalater (yes it is all one word here) is very slight and forgettable along with much of this album.

Irish Goodbye should be a drunken, babbling, carousing monster of a tune but of course isn’t. It does have some okay uke playing and that’s about as Irish as it gets. Damn this is the oddest tribute to Judy Garland I’ve ever heard; it sounds like they’re not really sure if they love her or hate her or just think she has a cool name.

Then we get Bad Boy and it is possibly the wimpiest song I’ve ever heard with such a title. It leaves me with the feeling about this album that is confirmed on the final track (kind of blah) that the whole thing is rather a lot of blah as it sort of hops all over a small pond. It’s almost a relief that it’s over.


Frog at Big Takeover

Queens, NY-based soft rock duo, Frog, offer their sophomore release, a bona fide full-length that should garner the group more notice than their largely overlooked eponymous 2013 EP (Monkfish).

Though there are only two of them, Kind of Blah sounds full in the heavy reverb wash of vocalist Dan Bateman’s guitar, allowing the songs to rest on a heady, hazy cloud propelled by the understated drumming of Thomas White. Stylistically, the tracks nod to the softer ’70s and country music, Bateman’s voice shifting from a James Taylor whine to a country yodel as the mood demands. It’s like Wilco wanted to be Steely Dan but kept their alt country origins.

At a time when New York’s music scene is primarily focused on Brooklyn, Frog emerge from the pond to remind us there’s still stuff going on in Queens. Fortunately, the album will bring them to us so we don’t have to make the trek.


Frog at Maximum Ink

Country-river folk spinning skinny-dipping syllogisms from hot-tip hipsters and daydreaming beatniks, “Blah,” shadow-babbles in swirling pop-culture skullduggery surfing an eclectic fusion of runaway sentences, nervous diversions and murmured worries. Rambling jam-band acoustics canoodle into sunny indie-rock wonder bundling Frog’s vernacular spectaculars into exquisite hillbilly shape-shifters curating meandering pandemonium from literate misfits for a contorted multi-storied voyage sailing furiously curious purges.


Frog at Line of Best Fit

New York City’s Frog – an indie-country duo of Dan Bateman and Thomas White, not a squelchy amphibian – are sharing new single “Judy Garland” exclusively on Best Fit.

Named after the famous Wizard Of Oz actress, “Judy Garland” weaves together lilting vocal scales, glottal stops, falsettos and all manner of intriguing vocal tricks. As well as the mouth-based element, the track also features a blinding rhythm section, banjo background and lo-fi fuzz. It’s a wonderfully energetic, infectious summer tune, and despite sounding ever-so-slightly menacing at points, it’s deliciously sweet for the most part.

Kind Of Blah is out 25 May on Audio Antihero, and you can pre-order it here. Benjamin Shaw has provided the artwork.

Stream “Judy Garland” below.

Click through for the stream!


Frog at Crackle Feedback

Frog are a duo from Queens, New York and their second album Kind of Blah is coming out next month on London’s Audio Antihero label. The record was recorded in an abandoned bowling alley in Astoria, NY and was (as Guitarist/Voclist Dan Bateman puts it) “an attempt to engage modern musical ideas from a 1950s style of arrangement, and was a complete failure in that respect but a success in most others”. Anyone who’s heard even the tiniest excerpt from Kind of Blah will attest that, however they came to it, they’ve found a spark of magic from somewhere. The band (Bateman and drummer Thomas White) shed some light on where their mixed-up, country-infused sound comes from by talking us through their record collection in the latest in our Broken Record series. Jazz fans may notice some correlation between Frog’s over-rated choice and the title of their latest LP.

Click through for the rest!