Chicago’s indie folk rock band, Friends of the Bog is following up their 2016 EP with a debut album Lyra. The album, named after the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, explores many correlating themes such as love, loss, death, time and longing. It’s comprised of songs that instrumentally, feel optimistic and upbeat, but are filled with poetic lyrism touching on dark and slightly sinister topics.
A round of finger picking on guitar opens the album with the song “Darkness”. The piece tells a familiar story of losing love and the awkwardness of moving forward. While the lyrics fall well into the song’s title, the instrumentation builds in a lively manner with bright synth lines and an upbeat percussion section. It’s easy to get lost in the sounds but words such as “my darkness became your darkness and it filled you up with regret” bring a heaviness to the tune.
The melancholy subject matter continues with “Always”. The slower tempo of the piece makes it dreamy with a hint of mandoline underlining the female vocals. Again, the instrumental lines give the illusion of happiness, but the good-hearted feeling is sunken with lyrics like “I’m an empty vault and you cleared out the last few riddles inside”. This faux positivity is upheld in “Faith”, a song pushed by strong rhythmic lines and a catchy chorus of “Faith/Faith/ Faith, I am telling you to go/ Go/ Go/ My mind is not your home, no.”
There’s a shift in energy as the album’s title track approaches. Two female vocals take over underlined by finger-picked strings. A thudding bass drum comes in to close out the first verse as the vocals reach for a higher register. The sound is both dark and pretty as it transitions into the accordion opening of “Dead Friends”. Right away the rawness of the lyrics standout; “James’ mom died/ didn’t want to write a song about/ felt fucked up to cash in on somebody else’s pain.” The song goes on to explore the realm of death and how people stay in the minds of friends after they are gone. It’s a sweet song propelled by vocal harmonies into an instrumental buildup of mandoline, guitar and accordion.
The following track, “What Got You Here”, falls flat in comparison with the rest of the album, but things pick up again with the bass line leading into “Who Really Cares”. It’s a quick moving piece with a fun layering of vocal lines and an uppity rhythm section. Something in the drive of the song is reminiscent of Americana music, making a smart choice leading into “Hudson”. The vocals of “Hudson” are silvery with the slightest hint of twang as lyrics taper off at the end of each line. It’s bright and hopeful for a song about time, wondering if memories are all that is left.
The album falls back into despair with “Barton Springs”. The heavy moving bass line and single chord strums on guitar keep an eerie tone over the piece. Instrumental lines are added into the build-up of the chorus “You hold my hand when the telephone rings/ Sarah’s brother drowned in Barton Springs”. Even with its minor spookiness, it’s a catchy song with a good groove.
Closing out the band’s first complete record is “You Didn’t Deserve This”. It’s one of the more beautiful songs on the album as the male vocals calmly sing over drones and light instrumental pings. Guitar and percussion lines slowly come in with the second verse, really filling out the sound before it fades out to wrap up the record.
Friends of the Bog’s next show will be on Friday, November 17 at Quenchers Saloon. The night will also include performances from Laura Wolf, Lizdelise and Boo Baby.