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.