Frog Eyes’ Carey Mercer has never confined himself to the ordinary register of human expression. From his time experimenting as a soloist under the name Blackout Beach to now, Mercer has howled from behind a microphone about both the juvenile and the intellectual, allowing his experience and intimate craftsmanship to stand behind such simple phrases as “Fuck death!” with resounding fury and intensity. In Pickpocket’s Locket, the ninth LP under the Frog Eyes name, Mercer writes from both sides of his personal pains with equal weight, balancing the child-like simplicity of his emotions with a rich literary complexity.
Four of Pickpocket’s Locket‘s ten tracks were recorded prior to Mercer’s radiation therapy for throat cancer, and the remaining six were recorded some time afterwards. Which are which is a cryptic deciphering game for fans familiar with Mercer’s decades-long discography. But if anything, Frog Eyes is sounding vocally stronger than they have in ages. Musically, the album gains a fantastic brightness from the inclusion, once again, of longtime collaborator Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade / Moonface / Sunset Rubdown) and his compositional skills on string sections. While the record may boast the largest collective cast of Frog Eyes’ history, it feels neither bloated nor crowded, but instead is a warm and indelibly weird near-folk offering. That this is their most accommodating release to date may annoy old fans seeking a writhing death-rattle war bard, but it’s hard to argue with an end result so captivating and breathable. Mercer unites a phenomenal cast to tell a tale of life and death, and all of the intricacies buried beneath that old story’s surface.