For those unfamiliar with Field Music think: an established UK band that makes smart and artsy pop, and oddly reminiscent of Steely Dan with less studio obsessiveness. They rely on subtle and crisp musical textures built on lush vocal interplay. Field Music’s fifth proper release is due February 5th and titled Commontime. All 14 tracks feature a cleanliness of recording; each instrument easy to identify while trusting in the complexity of the vocal interplay between lead and backing or chorus and verse.
The lead single on Commontime and album’s first track is “The Noisy Days Are Over.” Lyrically, it’s a conversation between two friends about unwillingly growing up (I can see it’s getting on; but I could do with another). It’s a catchy pop song that infectiously stutters along, but is hardly typical. The album has many great moments.
“I’m Glad” springs along with an irresistible Knack-like bounce and collapses into a hectic and unforeseen flurry of drums. “The Morning Is Waiting” is filled with lush strings and a pervasive melancholy that echoes the smoldering sadness of “She’s Leaving Home” from Sgt. Pepper.
“Disappointed” is the second single and it’s the best Steely Dan comparison, but stripped down to simple and clean sounding arrangements interlaced with perfect harmonies.
“It’s A Good Thing” is a superior pop song that really achieves a great AOR 70’s sound built on a steady keyboard riff and great vocals. On an album loaded with crisp and concise guitar fills, this one’s best. The biggest and most interesting stretch is “Trouble at the Lights.” It lazily winds its way out of the gate until a little over a minute when a stunning, soaring upward held vocal note suddenly shifts the tempo up momentarily. Just as quickly, it returns to its original meandering pace. Later, the same held note again reconfigures the song structure and suddenly transforms into an unexpected Gilmouresque string-bending jam. These contrasts in rhythm prod the listener and demand repeat listening.
On the whole, Commontime is quirky, melodic and much more than pleasant from start to finish; it would be a laudable early addition to your 2016 playlist.
> Lyrics – 15
> Composition – 16
> Musicianship – 17
> Production – 16
> Originality – 8
> Intangibles – 9
Overall: 81 [Recommended]