One of the hardest emotions to placate is disappointment. When we’re angry we shout, sad we cry, happy we laugh, but when we’re disappointed, well, sometimes there’s no clear way to suss it out. When Sunderland, UK — the hometown of Field Music’s Peter and David Brewis — became the poster child for Brexit’s Leave movement, the band decided to set their feelings to song; miraculously finding a way to put a positive note to these dark and troubling times.
New album Open Here blossoms on repeated listens. Album opener, “Time in Joy,” begins with a breathy build, the narrator pleading, “Please, have time for me,” before the song erupts into a rousing flute workout, strengthened by a razor sharp guitar riff coated in Shakedown Street–like envelope filter. Later track “Time in Joy” features one of my favorite lines on the album, a testament to the band’s hopeful approach: “But if deep and dark you say you need/ Then let me disagree/There’s nothing else so deep as time in joy/So spend some time on me.” The Brewis siblings, the architects behind Field Music’s distinctive sound, are known for their use of ever-changing melodies and tempos, a trait not lost here.
But back to politics for a moment. Both “Count It Up” and “Daylight Saving” have the feel of protest songs, using quick wit and fiery anger to guide the message home. “Count It Up” is a funky, synth-driven tune reminiscent of both early new-wave and ‘80s pop, lyrically driving the notion of being thankful for what you’ve got. “Daylight Saving” moves at a slower pace, with Pete Fraser’s sax riffing over pizzicato strings and piano before the narrator nervously sings, “Kiss the kids goodnight and then, check their breath, count to ten.” Both tracks, it seems, are trying to capture a bit of the post-Brexit-vote mood, using strong lyrical work and tone appropriate arrangements to convey sadness, anger, and even a slight bit of hope.
It’s odd for an album that deals with such heavy topics to be so upbeat, but Open Here manages it well. “No King No Princess” takes on gender roles with a calypso-like drum beat while Liz Corney takes over vocals on the chorus. Perhaps the brightest note on the record is “Find a Way To,” a song that seems to spend all its time building for a climatic finish, full of strings, horns, woodwinds, basically the whole kitchen sink. It’s a beautiful note to end on, arranged and performed as well as anything I’ve heard in ages; a real testament to the power of hope in the face of unrelenting darkness. And hope is something we all need, a fact that these lads from Sunderland know all too well.
People always like to compare Field Music to Steely Dan, and in regards to fidelity and production, I’d have to fall in line. You can see the mastery at work on a track like the previously mentinoed “Time in Joy,” bursting with at least 4 or 5 percussion instruments, flute, strings, a strong funk bass, things on paper that shouldn’t necessarily work together, but in this case absolutely do. Each instrument has it’s own place in the mix, whether it be a swirly panned triangle or a high-passed wiry electric guitar, to the point that you can hone in on any part of the menagerie at ease.
I always enjoy transparent pressings due to their (normally) clear sound and minimal surface noise. I’ve read that this has to do with the vinyl having less additives, but I’m no scientist so don’t hold me to it; all I know is this sounds great. I didn’t detect any noise through the entire spin.
Field Music had some fun with Open Here, opting for a die-cut sleeve similar to their 2016 release, Commontime. The cover has two small square cuts, one for a window and one for a TV screen, each showing an image from the inner sleeve. There’s also a small rectangular door with “open here” written above; you can punch that out yourself, if you like. The printed inner sleeve contains lyrics and a few images.
Open Here is available on vinyl at the Field Music store.