Great surprise. Return of the Frog Queen comes out of nowhere, in no way the follow-up to Jeremy Enigk's two previous LPs with Sunny Day Real Estate. Enigk chooses a really remarkable path, taking his highly dramatic, angst-ridden singing to a totally new sound. Now he favors harshly played acoustics. Way more surprising, Enigk lassos a whole orchestra to flesh out the background of each song! Enigk still screams like the abandoned child of Plastic Ono Band Lennon and "Heart Shaped Box" Cobain, a real shake-up. Likewise, his orchestra has equally dangerous intents. The most startling musical moment of all 1996 is the second half of the otherwise buried "Shade and the Black Hat," where the pent-up frustration inherent in this whole LP is suddenly let loose like Enigk were the delirious keeper of Pandora's box. He pounds a piano and howls like his wife just left him for his best friend, as the violins, violas, and cellos scrape at their strings as if to break them, and the flutes, piccolos, trumpets, trombones, French horns, and clarinets blow like they were hired by a wolf to blast a few recalcitrant pigs' houses down. The waves of classical countermelodies are extraordinary, adding on to each other to create an "1812 Overture" anvil clarion call, a roar so dense, so overpowering, it's like gasoline exploding, even more so as they back Enigk's fevered wail as if he were long past desperation. There are many other smaller, striking moments — many far sweeter, too, though always tempered by Enigk's dark voice — found throughout the LP, such as the chorus of "Carnival," where the man and his players turn positively paranoid to the suddenly depraved strains of circus sounds. The overall songwriting is superb, too. A truly remarkable work that has done the unthinkable, Frog Queen breaks new ground yet remains a direct hit, with the passion, power, and rage of punk; the simple, appealing babbling of folk; and even the multidimensional, nasty din of modern Russian classical. Wow.Jack Rabid
With the ambitious and fervent Return of the Frog Queen, the former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman plays everything from guitar and drums to harpsichord. Then he surrounds himself with a strings, woodwinds, and brass. Lyrically, he's elliptic; musically, he strays from the pretty pop to a kind of sober psychedelia. Ultimately, he clearly feels the need to make a grand statement. Of course, grandeur is often delusional, and big, as often as not, is merely bloated in its infancy. With this undeniably enchanting album, however, one can't help but wonder what's next for Enigk. And that in itself is impressive. He's upped the ante enough that we can anxiously anticipate his failures as well as his achievements.
Now, this is odd: an artist from Seattle who does not have that Seattle grunge sound that quite frankly so many of us are getting sick and bored of. Something new, something fresh is always exciting, and Jeremy Enigk has delivered just what the doctor has ordered. Enigk is the former lead vocalist and song writer for Sunny Day Real Estate, another Sub Pop band. Many have wondered, or have even been concerned, whether Enigk could follow up the success of SDRE, but he has come up with a very interesting and moody original album. Mellow is the general feel, but there are powerful moments as well. Enigk's unique and distinctive emotional voice fits in extremely well with the remarkable music which consists mostly of acoustic instruments and an orchestra. This album is full of artistic beauty and could even be considered a musicians' masterpiece. Highlights are "Carnival," "Abegail Anne" and "Shade and the Black Hat," all well written songs with a lot of feeling. The album as a whole seems to fit well together. It's great to hear an alternative album from Seattle not sounding like the same old thing. If you're tired of it like I am, check out Jeremy Enigk.Greg Gitzel
Jeremy Enigk – Return Of The Frog Queen (1996) 320kbps