Boston-based indie folk/alt-rock duo Frog & Toad are Maxx Kowalik and Timmy Grove. They were beset by a common tragedy–the loss of a dear friend–back in 2014, and turned to music as a way to process and express their emotions. Their work, initially improvised, formed the sketches of the tunes that they fleshed out and ultimately recorded as their debut EP Frog & Toad.
The six tracks are rooted in indie folk and alternative rock, but they’ve pushed beyond the basic guitar, bass, drum setup typical of the genre. This is clear right from the opening cut, “The Woods Here.” On the track–John Mayer-ish in its groove and vocal style–Frog & Toad create a soundscape with layered guitars, piano, string swells, backing-vocal harmonies and little sonic Easter eggs (e.g. birds, white noise and handclaps). “There’s something so beautiful about the woods here,” they sing, and the track paints that beauty and puts us right there with them. Frog & Toad tell us they are trying to build “a bridge between a natural and digital world” and they succeed. Yes, the bird sounds help, but it’s the musical lines and textures that matter. It’s so well done, you’ll have this on repeat before getting to the other five tracks.
“Break” and “Calming Down,” the next tracks, are a bit more rhythmic, and just as well arranged. There are multiple sections and layers upon layers of instruments to push and pull the tension of the track along with the vocal melody and lyrics. The synths on “Calming Down” were a highlight, nicely set against the rhythm guitar figure. The mixing (Grove) and mastering (Nick Cardone) deserve a mention as well; there’s a lot going on here, and Frog & Toad’s music is wonderfully supported by the work done behind the desk throughout the disc.
The instrumental “Interlude” packs a lot into just two minutes. It starts with a saxophone in a shimmering smooth sound space, and shifts into a classic Pink Floyd-type groove, complete with a rocking organ part. Too bad it was so short–it felt as if there was more that could have been said.
“Feel Like This” and “Family At Home” round out the EP. These tracks are–like all of the others–wonderfully arranged to support the emotion of the lyrics and the haunting vocal melodies. Upon repeated listenings, you’ll discover lots of interesting parts and countermelodies, not to mention cool synth sounds and effects.
Kowalik and Grove have channeled themselves into their art, and they’ve produced a beautiful debut album. Let us close with their own words–Frog & Toad proves that “even in darkness, flowers can bloom.”
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