Jeremy Enigk

Return of the Frog Queen (Sub Pop ’96) Rating: A-
This solo album by the former Sunny Day Real Estate frontman is an at times brilliant tour de force; Enigk alone plays guitar, bass, piano, harpsichord, harp, and drums, while an orchestra adds lush atmospherics to what I'd describe as ornately arranged, Elizabethan folk songs. The best songs here ("Abegail Anne," "Return of the Frog Queen," "Carnival," "Explain," and especially "Shade and the Black Hat") swell to inspired peaks, highlighted by Enigk’s impossibly impassioned vocal delivery. Enigk’s dramatic, at times over-the-top vocal delivery brings to mind Neutral Milk Hotel's equally affecting (and also heavily accented) belter Jeff Mangum, who I'd guess was influenced by Enigk. Anyway, several songs here pass prettily by without leaving a lasting impression, as Enigk is at his best when he unleashes full-blown orchestrations and simply let’s his vocal chords shred. The album is also way too skimpy at 29 minutes, and the ever-cryptic Enigk would do well to deliver more moments of clarity along the lines of "it tears me apart can they hear me, when I speak my tongue’s tied." Fortunately, there’s some fantastic, highly original stuff here provided that Neutral Milk Hotel meets Bryter Layter-era Nick Drake sounds appealing to you; the enigmatic Enigk then rejoined Sunny Day Real Estate, who released the excellent How It Feels To Be Something On in 1998.

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