Frog Eyes’ new album, Pickpocket’s Locket, is set to come out this Friday, August 28, via Toronto’s Paper Bag Records. The band’s previous album, Carey’s Cold Spring, was written and recorded following the the death of songwriter Carey Mercer’s father and Mercer’s own throat cancer diagnosis. Pickpocket’s Locket picks up where Cold Spring left off in many respects. Mercer notes, “My dad left me his acoustic guitar in his will…. I wrote ten songs on it, and I think that was the real gift he gave me: a love of…creating [music], sowing myself, in some small way, into the story of music.”
Mercer may have written the songs for Pickpocket’s Locket on an acoustic guitar, but the record created from those tunes is more art rock than folky balladeering. Unsurprisingly Frog Eyes’ music finds kindred spirits in the sounds of Dan Bejar and Spencer Krug, both of whom collaborate with Mercer in the trio Swan Lake. Mercer himself described his goal for Pickpocket’s Locket‘s sound as “Douglas Sirk strings, a noble spin on Corky’s Debt to His Father, [and] some Darkness on the Edge of Town vibes.” He succeeds in corralling the various influences, and early single “Joe With the Jam” helps clarify Mercer’s ideas.
As on Frog Eyes’ previous records, Mercer sings on Pickpocket’s Locket, but those anticipating a lot of that legendary shriek will find that his vocals have mellowed while retaining their power and essence. The band’s sound is fleshed out by Shyla Seller on piano, Terri Upton on upright and electric bass, and Mercer’s partner, Melanie Campbell, (returning from a one album hiatus) on drums. Also featured are previously-mentioned old friend and occasional collaborator Spencer Krug, who wrote all of the string parts on the album; Jesse Zubot, who played said strings; John Paton on sax; and Paul Rigby on pedal steel guitar.
Pickpocket’s Locket, and the music of Frog Eyes more generally, can come across as intimidating, especially with track titles like “Two Girls (One For Heaven and the Other One For Rome)” and “The Beat Is Down (Four Wretched Singers Beyond Any World That You Have Known),” but the music has hooks to draw listeners in and rewards even a touch of patience.