Sunday, June 21, 2009

Albums That You Should Own, But Perhaps Don't (And In That Case, You Soon Will): Jeremy Enigk - Return Of The Frog Queen

Jeremy Enigk - Return Of The Frog Queen

The whole purpose of the Albums That You Should Own series is to highlight lesser-known records that might not be a part of your music collection, but I gotta say, the selection process isn't exactly scientific on my end, it involves making some assumptions. In the case of Jeremy Enigk's Return of the Frog Queen, I have to assume that you already own several indispensable Sunny Day Real Estate albums such as Diary, LP2 and How It Feels To Be Something On.

And if you don't, then by all means, familiarize yourself with those gems before delving into Jeremy Enigk's solo work. But if you already own those albums and are ready to start digging a little deeper, you can't do better than by starting with Return of the Frog Queen.

This 1996 album was written and recorded after Sunny Day disbanded for the first time in '95 (they subsequently reunited in '97, disbanded again in '00, and are rumored to be reuniting again this year.) It was quite a departure from Enigk's previous work, mostly due to its orchestral arrangements and largely acoustic setting; miles away from Sunny Day's often bombastic guitar and drum-based rock (or emo, before it became a four-lettered word.)

The nonpareil beauty of Enigk's voice is front and center on all these songs as it is accompanied for the first time by a variety of melodical elements such as mellow violins, cellos and violas, resonant glockenspiels, and mellifluos woodwinds and brass. Stylistically, it's not too far from Syd Barrett's solo work (albeit without the insanity) mixed with some grandiose chamber pop. However, the structure of the songs is not entirely removed from the Sunny Day Real Estate songbook, especially on "Carnival" and "Shade and the Black Hat". The title track and "Explain" are definite highlights of the album for me.



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