Field Music - Open Here Album Review
Progressive pop isn’t a genre classification that gets thrown around often, with artists that fall under the classification being one of the most eclectic groups in all of music. From Kate Bush, to Sufjan Stevens, to Supertramp, to Benjamin Clementine, it takes a distinct character and performing ability to stretch the song structures and instrumentation of pop music in complex ways while still retaining the accessibility the genre is known for. Though UK indie rockers Field Music have been toying around with the genre over the course of the last two decades, Open Here is the first time the group’s artistic vision has come into full fruition thanks to an adoption of new wave components into their music.
The most immediate feature of Open Here is the dynamic instrumentation. The list of instruments that Field Music don’t use would probably shorter than a list of instruments that they do. From traditional rock instrumentation, to classical instrumentation, to 1980s synths, Open Here’s variety of sounds provide Field Music with a huge sandbox to shape their melodies and accompaniments. While lesser artists would have trouble keeping an album from sounding incohesive with such a diverse sonic palate, Field Music’s careful refinement and experimentation throughout their career with so many different combinations of instrumentation has allowed them to fine tune every musical voice heard on the album.
Open Here delivers on the “pop” half of the genre with earworm after earworm of melodic lines. Lead singer David Brewis’s vocal melodies theatrically dance throughout the songs, reminiscent of the most unironically grand vocals of the new wave era. But comparisons to new wave music don’t end there, as the band delivers on the “progressive” half of their genre with the incredibly arranged accompaniments. Jerky guitar rhythms, fun bass lines, and beefy horn sections bring an undeniable energy to some of the longer, more complex compositions on Open Here, to the point where the complicated songwriting can go unnoticed under the sheer fun of the instrumentation.
Lyrically and thematically the album is more direct than past releases by Field Music, focusing on mature subjects of fatherhood and the growing struggles of the everyman. The few moments where Field Music attempts to draw focus to the lyrics such as the album’s second track “Count It Up” and second to last track “Daylight Saving” don’t hit as hard as the punchy melodies they’re attached to. Both tracks’ vocal parts pale in comparison to the textured vibrancy of the horn sections to which they trade the melody with. This is no fault to the lyrical or vocal abilities of David Brewis, merely a testimony to the band’s incredible songwriting.
But though so many moments on this album feel incredible, such as the album’s closer “Find a Way to Keep Me” which is the best deep cut of the year so far, much of what makes Open Here such an engaging listen from start to finish is thanks to the band’s influences more than the innovation of the band themselves. For every moment of impeccable use of instrumentation that feels fresh and new, there’s a moment where the influence of Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, or Duran Duran feels immediate palpable. This isn’t necessarily a band thing per se, but it holds the album back from truly feeling like an “album of the year” experience, instead feeling like the “album of yesteryear.”
One thing is for certain though, Open Here is an album that should not be missed. Though it just barely fails to incorporate the best the new wave era had to offer in truly new ways, it does so in a package that will surely feel fresh to listeners new to this style in 2018. It’s an expertly composed, beautifully orchestrated example of the power of pop music that’s as catchy as it is complex.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Public Relations