Frog – Kind of Blah
4 out of 5

The title of New York duo Frog‘s second album isn’t exactly one that inspires courage in itself, but we’re willing to bet it’s more of an ironic dig at the transience of that’s come to make up a large portion of the lo-fi genre, at least in its current form. Fortunately, what Kind of Blah doesn’t want for, is substance. Where similar bands will strive for their music to be ephemeral or even transcendent, Frog are interested in nostalgia, in providing you with memories of experiences that aren’t yours, and in making you pine for romances you’ve never had.

And though the similar acts might well veer more towards the realms of dream-pop, the wealth of influences found on Kind of Blah draws from a host of transatlantic indie history: The Mountain Goats, Bon Iver, Ride, The Shins. Even Neutral Milk Hotel get more than a nod thanks to stream-of-conciousness style lyricism that permeates the record throughout.  Because of this, Kind of Blah isn’t as cohesive or as a seamless as one might expect an album of its strength to be, instead it segues from aesthetic to aesthetic, narrative to narrative, paining pictures of small town America past and present (‘Catchyalater’), whilst the pervading touch of their sprawling hometown (‘Wish Upon A Bar’) is never far  away.

Perhaps the one unifying factor of the record is the degree of humanity upheld by each track present, the emotions and the experiences almost all universal. This is something itself audible in the record’s production. Recorded beneath a disused bowling alley, it’s as if Frog have channelled the decades of broken hearts and broken curfews; the sticky floors and misspent youths that played out in the building. Often such low production values feel contrived and even clichéd, but here they only add to the record’s authenticity, making the narratives contained all the more real. The aforementioned ‘Catchyalater’ encapsulates this humanity perfectly with the line “I watched you from the kitchen window, I want to call you I just play Nintendo”. It’s heartbreakingly simple, dripping with poignant apathy that defines the record wonderfully.

Whilst it goes without saying that the apparent erraticness of Kind of Blah won’t appeal to everyone, it takes its cues from enough of a variety of acts to appeal to fans of more than one genre.  As another writer so eloquently phrased it: “It’s like every cult band from the past decade bottled in to half an hour of music”. They couldn’t be more right.

Dave Beech