Published May 16, 2018Near the beginning of Frog Eyes' eighth and final album, Carey Mercer offers a prophetic line: "Sometimes you've got to be / the door that you walk through that sets you free."
Though Violet Psalms was fully finished before the band decided to make it their last album, self-liberation was apparently already playing out in Mercer's mind: a similar sentiment pops up in the very next song — "We shall unlock the door that sets us free" — to highlight its importance.
Fittingly then, Violet Psalms finds Frog Eyes going out in a burst of vitality. It's a mesmerizing album, full of world-weary terror and transcendent grace. As a quartet — Mercer on guitar and vocals, drummer Melanie Campbell (who recorded the drums one part at a time, building the rhythms out of the pieces in studio), bassist Terri Upton and keyboardist Shyla Seller, whose synth lines do wonders for tone and texture across the board— the band uses a focused palette of sounds that unsettle and roar in equal measure.
"A Strand of Blue Stars" opens the album up with an icy processional, shifting layers of instrumentation underscoring Mercer's rising verbiage. "Idea Man" find joy in its loping, rhythmic skitters, while the guitar-led shreds of "Itch of Summer Knees" recall the band's The Folded Palm-era. "Pay For Fire" closes Violet Psalms out with one of the most gorgeous songs the band have ever crafted — a tender closer to an album that challenges, even as it brings a 17-year band to its conclusion. As a coda for Frog Eyes, it's hard to imagine a more potent sendoff. (Paper Bag)