Landing somewhere in between vintage complexity and intelligent Williamsburg bar-rock, Field Music comes out of their hiatus feeling as fresh as ever with Measure
, a new benchmark but by no means far from their usual marks. Clocking in at 70 minutes with twenty songs, it's not light consumption.... but the journey through the modes never seem stale, even though they often apply circular logic to their music. Each track has something to unfold, whether instrumental, orchestral, or simply sonic bliss, these guys know what they are doing.
Clearly their time off wasn't spent doodling. Field Music's arrangements are sharper than ever, and achieve a level of shade/strip/color that makes it all sound ten times as potent. See "Measure", a study in the string riff driving the tune (like Beatles meets Queen), or "Precious Plans", which accomplishes mountain like texture with a few acoustic pounds, electric licks, strings and voices. I like complicated things, so naturally when a building conversation of sounds explodes at the end, it's like seeing several paintings at once, literally talking to each other. Or watching notes jump off a page.
The harmonies make a lot of the record stand out, in the same way that Midlake often rests on them (although their overuse tends to get tired after a few listens). Field Music, like their now contemporaries Local Natives, probably could have written the book on salt and peppering music with harmonies in just the right spots. Never overbearing and always delightful, it's the dual voices that gives their work a hint of nostalgia without sounding forced.
And the song structure is never predictable. Read: they like a deeper knowledge of music, probably&mdash the cover is a music staff, the name of the record is a play on 'measures' (as in a subdivision of a larger work, four beats in a measure), they named their band after drum corps&mdash You do the math. Each song melts itself into a sort of merry-go-round kind of riff, chorus, lyric that never seems to follow any sort of pattern or end up anywhere obvious. Upon closer inspection it seems decipherable, but who has the time to be mapping ABC song structure? The point is they take risk by following a non-linear cycle, and it shows, and it often pays off for those who can spot it. Nine times out of ten the song ends in a very different place than it started, like in the ironically named "Something Familiar", which starts as an obtuse bass, and ends as a piano serenade. I eat this sh*t for breakfast.
No paradigms are shifting here. Field Music is just a solid band who wrote an enjoyable, thought provoking record. Unfortunately for them, good songwriting (at least from a rock perspective) will always be called out for biting off The Beatles. Fortunately for them, their songs are good enough to merit the scrutiny. -joe puglisi
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