Album Review: Field Music – Open Here

If ever a year needs a boost with an epic album, you should give Field Music a call and get them releasing material ASAP. Luckily, nobody had to pick up the Magic Phone of Salvation: the duo has taken it upon themselves to unleash Open Here. It’s just as well, I guess – this month has seen the odd good album already, but nothing that truly warms the hearts and massages the imagination. Released on Memphis Industries, this is the seventh album from brothers David and Peter Brewis (who, as Field Music, also work with other musicians and talent). The Sunderland duo releases one album every two years, more or less – some might see that as quite a gap. Whereas lesser artists would take that long to record an album and come up with complete pap, the intrepid and ever-changing Field Music produce masterful, original work every time out.

Field Music - Open Here artwork

2016’s Commontime was well-received by critics and heavily inspired by (new) familial duties for the brothers – ‘The Morning Is Waiting’ and ‘Stay Awake’ were written about their children/changing roles in life. Their lives and situations had evolved and shifted direction since 2012’s Plumb. In fact, it would be understandable if Open Here kept that parental/familial theme going. Luckily, for those who like a more outward-looking record, the brothers (without abandoning family and home) look out at the wider world and take a unique stance. One of the downsides of their previous album was the running-time – it was nearly an hour long and lacked the diversity of some of their other records. 2017 was a great and fruitful year for music: this year is crying out for artists who produce something profound, thought-provoking and unifying. Can Field Music do this with Open Here?! In short: yes, they flipping well can!

Not only is Open Here the strongest album of their career so far, there are many, myself included, who are oiling the album up, ready for the end-of-year photo shoots, where it could be named the Champion of All Releases! It might be premature declaring a January-released album as the best of the year with the likes of Jack White and Florence + The Machine teasing forthcoming discs, but unless they offer a free orgasmatron (trademarked and patented by myself) and daily buttock massage – they will have a hard time rivalling the giddy delights and heart-pumping bliss-outs on Open Here. To avoid further rambling, I shall get to the business of reviewing the album – I merely wanted to set the scene and calm myself down!

‘Count It Up’ is already my favourite song of the year. It is a stunning pastor promoting positivity and the need to count one’s blessings. Each ‘checklist’ line is designed to promulgate a more hopeful and optimistic attitude to life. Its vocals – the high-pitched chorus-call of “Count, it, up!” and the spoken segments – remind me of Remain in Light-era Talking Heads. Anyone who baulks at the suggestion Field Music can match the dizzying genius of that album would do good to investigate Open Here. ‘Time in Joy’, the latest single, begins with woozy, scenic electronics like a mystical animal tripping through a moonlit forest as the lightning buzzes above like flirting hornets, before opening into a contemplative passage. Our hero realises there are people and things that care about him; against the tide of shadows and pressure, there is room for joy and pleasure. The song bursts into an infantile, delirious coda of pipes, skip and fairy-like dance. It is a spiralling, delirious song that perfectly sets the album’s tones: recognising the realities and drawbacks of life but able to eek charm and light in the darkest of chasms. It is a bass-driven, hypnotic ode that grabs you by the heart – it is so busy and adventurous!

‘Share a Pillow’ starts like a James Bond theme as if imagined by Madness on a mid-morning bender. It is horn-rousing and funky; it jives and swaggers in its bright, baggy trousers. The song tightens and struts its way down the street, man! There is a suggestion of romance as our man asks whether his interest would like to share a pillow – for all its pomp and confidence, it seems like sleep and comfort will take the place of sweat and sex. ‘Open Here’ is luscious and rousing: classical-eared, elegant strings provide a rare dignity and sense of discipline. It recalls The Beatles on Revolver – one hears embers of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ in the string-articulation and lyrical haunt. Cinematic, theatrical scene-setting, luscious harmonies, exquisite strings (the likes of which Robert Kirby would be jealous…) and sumptuous sonic orgasms make it a natural standout track. ‘Goodbye to the Country’ talks about a knife being placed to the neck of the hero, working in a swish office block with snotty types – maybe abandoning a quieter idyll and embracing the city has led to a, somewhat, unnatural and mind-crushing way of life.

If that song questioned life choices and place, ‘No King No Princess’ looks at ego, position and roles in life. Horns are back but this time they are intermittent and regal-sounding. Maybe the pair are crying over the spilt milk of life but there are bigger things to worry about. We are all flawed and limited – action and resolve mean you can make things happen. ‘Find a Way To’ is an emotional and heartfelt closer that tugs at the soul but still has those sweeping orchestral touches. You get majestic horns and resplendent strings – a fusion of Baroque movements and fantastical voyages, conspiring and dancing in rapture to the very end. It is a vivid, mind-melting musical excursion that seems to cram every inch of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (back to the well of The Beatles) into five-and-a-half minutes. It is a staggering song that ends a remarkable album.

One hardly knows where to begin with Open Here. Its compositions and instrumentation are the stuff of fever-dream; the lyrics look at life, personal development and making the best of the modern world. There are negative moments but the boys offer myriad bursts of colour, sunshine and hope. It is impossible to listen to the album without being overcome with smiles and fantasies. One immerses themselves in the record and is helpless to resist its divine power. You might think it naïve to declare Field Music’s Open Here the best album of 2018: take a listen to the Brewis’ latest odyssey and that bold declaration is not so reckless.

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