Hailing from Sunderland, UK brothers David and Peter Brewis, backbones of the musical entity Field Music, are once again releasing an impressive recording. On February 2 “Open Here” their sixth release arrives in all the usual musical outlets and follows up their 2016 noteworthy release “Commontime”. Where “Commontime” was a distillation of all that Field Music had accomplished up to that point, “Open Here” is a musical expansion in many different directions. The release displays a band that has mastered their expressive literary intelligence and encompassed their lyrics in enthralling sounds. Until now Field Music has been known for their conservative and sparse sonic approach but this time around they fill their accompaniment with horns, strings, percussion and woodwinds only enhancing their latest wry take on our current existence.
David and Peter Brewis have always been virulently independent musicians who evince a positive loathing of the usual record company machinations. The duo is almost reticent in their approach to marketing themselves. They have gained a reputation for watching their financial bottom line carefully in order to avoid depending on a record label for support. The pair experienced some indigestion over an infamous 2016 interview with the Guardian, where the paper seemed to overemphasize the band making only about $5,000 a year, rather than the brothers actually gauging of their success in terms of staying true to the intent of their music. The Brewis brothers now emphasize they don’t want anyone to feel sorry for them. They want people to understand they measure their success by being able to be proud of their creations and not their ability to become millionaire rockstars.
Open Here brings to a close an era for the band. The small Riverside studio that was the nexus for the creation of Field Music tunes is no more. In early 2017 the Brewis brothers got their studio’s eviction notice and recorded the release under the looming threat of the wreaking ball. That situation left the brothers with a sense of urgency to finish the record. It also forced the band out of their comfort zone, causing them to include a number of collaborators to make their mark. Surprisingly what might have been a navel-gazing time for reflection and regret about the change that was transpiring instead inspired the brothers to look for silver linings. It left them with a desire to dispel the gloom that seems to be enveloping our world.
As always with Field Music the lyrics on Open Here are wry, clever and filled with insight and empathy. The album questions how we handle the downturns in our personal and world’s fortunes and how to stop the erosion of faith in people, institutions and our loved ones. Counterintuitively the release is not a gloomy trope but instead, there is an aura of defiance, a feeling of needing to “laugh at the devil to send him packing” which is evinced throughout the proceedings. The recording starts off with Time in Joy a play on words, this Beatlesque tune had an inner ebullience that is distinctly engaging. The underlying brilliant funk harkens to Talking Heads golden era and stresses that we should use our precious time to enjoy what we will and love those close to us. The song sets the tone for the entire release with a feeling of excitement in the face of adversity. Count It Up continues the ethos pointing out how we should keep our first world problems in perspective and stop bemoaning the sand in our shoes when there are unfortunates who are living in unthinkable conditions. I loved this track and the meld of Prince with Talking Heads sensibilities and a good dose of Crowded House wry quirkiness tossed in makes this track a winner. Overall the feel-good tracks on the recording outnumber the melancholy which is a switch up for Field Music. But never fear they still know how to deliver on bittersweet emotions as proven by Front of the House which is a short melancholy farewell to a friend gone too soon. The combination of flute and strings, especially the cello, make for an evocative track. Share a Pillow shows the Brewis brothers cooking up a magical brew, combining a vibrant rocker that is simply Bowiesque with jaunty horns. Examined is a romantic day to day reality where sharing a pillow with a lover can be as divine as any over the top romantic gesture, “I’d hate to think you were lonely…if we shared a pillow what would you say to that.”
The absolute must listen on the album is the title track, Open Here, is a standout. The Brewis brothers channel the Beatles Sgt Peppers selections” A Day in The Life and She’s Leaving Home” and give it their own piquant flavour. It is an exceptional track that left me astounded. It must be heard to truly be appreciated.
Throughout the release, each song is impressive maintaining a strong consistency. The tracks at the end of the playlist are as worthy as the songs in the beginning. Checking on a Message delivers a healthy dose of XTC literary brilliance as it discusses the ambiguous emotions of being on the losing end of the Brexit referendum, “I stayed up till I could not care less.” Goodbye to the Country again shares the fear that no one is looking beyond the immediate imagined result rather than the pending consequences. There is an underlying question of whether anyone has thought this through. This sentiment is well expressed with the lyric, “I’m sure it’ll all be good for making money at your kids’ expense.” What is of note is Field Music’s ability to ponder these anxious thoughts while providing a tone that doesn’t panic but points out home truths over the delightful sounds. No King, No Princess utilizes a wonky Pixies sonic while pointing out no matter your gender you can be what you want to be. The totally relatable Daylight Savings captures the realism of new parenthood, with that “holding on by your fingernails” sensation as you fight through utter exhaustion telling yourself it can only get better. Anyone who has lived through those early days of parenthood will find this winsome tune spot on.
The final track of the release, Find A Way To is a magnificent drama filled send off to an extraordinary album. The textures woven with piano, horns, strings and lyrics make for an unforgettably poignant moment. The theme is finding your path without being drawn asunder. It is another “must listen” selection on an album loaded with required listening.
Field Music has produced a stunner of a new release with Open Here. They have utilized winning sonic approaches that are comfortingly approachable while discussing the things that wear us down and erode our faith in the world and civilization. Their expanding palette of instruments and performers makes for a memorable outing. Every note on the album is apt and serves a purpose showing them as ever being more concerned about serving their songs than any worries about relevance with the current fads of pop music. Field Music labours in the musical arena of thought-provoking, clever artists such as Talking Heads, XTC, and Crowded House. They supply the listener with a much-needed dose of intelligent, self-effacing, insight-laden music. Field Music is a band that so deserves a bigger audience and this album will hopefully expose them to a greater audience. Open Here is an inspired representation of their unique gifts and their best album to date.