Amongst the Cancon Class of 2010, the award for Most Likely to Make the Most Under-appreciated Album of the Year goes to Frog Eyes for Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph.
At the dawn of the last decade, on the precipice of another pop music revolution, it seemed as if indie-rock was being reduced to the nerdy kid sitting in the back row of your classroom maniacally waving both hands in the air, desperate for attention and recognition. For every accolade fired at Arcade Fire and Caribou, there was an army of artists trying to out-weird each other in an attempt to get noticed. Whether it was by butchering melodies in the name of “angular” music or vocal performances with more movements than a gymnastics floor routine, it seemed that the prevailing wisdom was the further you pushed your music (and yourself) the better. For a lot of bands, these histrionics came off as forced and fake. In the case of 2010’s Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph, Frog Eyes’ band leader Carey Mercer delivered an unexpected, cacophonous delight. While their contemporaries gesticulated wildly for attention, Frog Eyes sat head down, hoodie up to hide their earbuds from the teacher, and scratched out a classic full of complex arrangements and careening vocal acrobatics.
Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph is not for those short on patience, though. Starting with the nine-plus-minute-long “A Flower in a Glove”, the hour-long album careens its way through ten other tracks, four of which cross the five-minute mark. Far from sounding overly-long and lumbering, Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph crams a lifetime of musical learning into its songs. Mercer’s hedonistic wail — once described by Carl Wilson as “half-carnival-barker, half-gnostic-preacher” — is ferocious on “A Flower in a Glove”, maintaining its intensity through the blitzkrieg of “Rebel Horns” and a smouldering “Violent Psalms”. The shorter Mercer’s compositions are (like “Lear in Love”), the more focused their impact. But regardless of length, the songs on Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph all have similar blast zones — razed by sinuous synths, Mercer and Ryan Beattie’s reverberating guitars, and Melanie Campbell’s unrelenting drumming.
Amongst the Cancon Class of 2010, Caribou and Owen Pallett were getting top honours and Arcade Fire were crowned Prom Royalty, but the award for Most Likely to Make the Most Underappreciated Album of the year has to go to Frog Eyes. A year before Mercer’s frequent collaborator Dan Bejar graduated to the big time with Destroyer’s Kaputt and mere months after former roommate and Frog Eyes bandmate Spencer Krug released the less focused Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums as Moonface, Frog Eyes pulled the kind of enduring grad prank that people talk about for years to come when they dropped an assertive, under-appreciated atomic bomb of a record with Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph.