Bright & Seamless
Some say to save the best for last, but on their newest album, Boo, Forever, Brooklyn-based Field Guides breaks that rule. The record opens with their 8-minute crowning glory of a track, “A Song After Grace.” At first we hear birds tweet and whistle in a forest, and all is peaceful. Then cymbals crash and guitars twang, with all band members thrashing about in a big celebration – everything is bright. Then the drums become groggy, the guitars become phased out by drowsy strings, stretching every note out. It’s not easy to see at first, but with a few listens you’ll see the story this track is telling: You’ll soon see a sunrise behind the birds chirping, then you’ll feel the blaze of the sun burning bright with all the cymbals, then sunset comes with the tired instruments, and then you hear birds again and nocturnal creatures as the song comes to a close – night time. It’s the music of the day and night, the sun’s journey through the sky, all of these big concepts somehow etched into this track like a blueprint.
This is something Field Guides does well; they can create grand scenes without using whole orchestras or fiddling with super complicated production. For the most part, the instrumentation on Boo, Forever is simple – a few well-placed chords paired with some reverb seems to unlock their sound and give their instruments some freedom. And they’re good at layering – each instrument’s role works well and blends into the next, making everything sound smooth, without any musical splinters sticking out. Check the jam towards the end of “I Wish All Our Hands” – from the twinkly bell tune to the pounding drums, it all fits together seamlessly.
The pace on Boo, Forever stays fairly slow, nothing too speedy. The tracks with the most pickup are “Lisa Loeb Probably Never Pierced Her Ears,” which rides a pretty catchy tune; and “Lorrie Moore” – but even after their snare-tapping run, they mellow out and take things slow. You get the feeling that the instruments and band members themselves might float off and fly away with each break, but the drums on most of these tracks have a heavy, grounding bass that anchors everything down.
You’ll find the footprints of artists like Yo La Tengo lingering on the track “Jon Says” (that baseline practically belongs on I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One), and look for traces of Slow Club, the UK duo, all over the record. Most of the similarity between Field Guides and Slow Club come from the vocals, (on the same track, “Jon Says”) much of it on Boo, Forever resembling Rebecca Taylor’s.
The big thing to take away from Boo, Forever is that Field Guides have a distinct vision in mind. It’s bright and it’s loud, at times it’s subtle and echoey. They didn’t just throw a bunch of sounds together into a big mess of an LP – this is clean and executed well. They’ve provided a roadmap – a field guide – of sorts, in which to see this sunny and shiny vision. Let’s just hope to see more of it sometime soon.