It’s time again to turn the music down and put on your art-critic monocles and top hats. Yes, today is the day we judge 2010 releases strictly on their visual packaging aesthetics as opposed to their auditory aptitude. It’s also a way to highlight the ‘other’ artists who have created the artwork and often don’t get the credit besides a sub-par blurb in the liner notes. 2010 was filed with beautiful artwork and it has been a struggle to dwindle them down to 5, but alas, my favorites are to be found below. Just like last year, I’m looking at the entire package; composition, balance, tone, meaning and originality. Use of text is not necessary as we saw last year, but when it is used, it must compliment the piece as a whole. I don’t claim to be an expert, but when looking back through this year’s album artwork, here are the ones that caught my eye.
The Brewis brothers have just returned from their brief hiatus, which featured several decent albums by their respective projects (School of Language and The Week That Was). But, as they’ve reunited with Field Music, they present the masses with Measure; it’s a burdensome album that takes twenty songs and goes beyond the 70 minute mark.
It becomes apparent that the group hasn’t strayed too far from their staccato style prog when you first press play. The piano even has a stabbing sound to it, albeit one surrounded by various layers of texturizing. This will ultimately be the story of this album, it’s the inclusion of textures and layering that fleshes out Measure. Some listeners will see them as sort of a British version of Pinback. Both bands operate on these mathematical constructs, as if each instrument has been placed into the stero by way of equation rather than heart (that’s not to say I don’t like that about them).
Unlike some of their brethren in The Futureheads or Maximo Park (bands who’ve joined the group in the studio and on the stage), the one thing that doesn’t push this record forward is that it does seem so calculated. You can cruise through the first five songs until you land on “Effortlessly,” which is the first song that seems to really draw you into the record itself. Then you sort of wander back and forth through meandering instrumentation until you hit “You and I,” the tenth track. Perhaps the slow-core tempo is really the breeding ground for inspiration here because the lacking of pace in this number is what makes the jump in the volume during the chorus seem to emphatic.
As a fan of the band, Measure is still really hard to follow along all the way until the end. Like Sufjan when he released Illinoise, this whole thing will sort of wear you down; it’s just too long for a modern listening experience (that’s a whole other issue). Formulaic rock is great, and there are a lot of incredible little moments throughout the whole affair, but you have to recall be on your game as a listener to take this whole thing in one sitting. Try as I might, and I’m a fan mind you, I couldn’t get through it all at once. Songs bled into one another, and the larger idea of the record sort of faded away.
But, you can take a different approach, one that will reward you. Listen, at first, in brief sittings. Take three or four songs at once, then pause and reflect. “Measure” your thoughts, if you will. Might I suggest starting at “First Comes the Wish,” which just happens to be one of the stronger songs. Start here, then go forward two song, then maybe skip around. Although I like the record a lot from this point until the end. In pursuing a different listening experience for yourself, you will define this album on your own terms. It will reveal itself to you in an entirely different manner than perhaps it did me. This way, you won’t be worn down or burdened by the large undertaking.
Taken in one sitting, this album bleeds together, which makes the formulaic sound a little weaker than Field Music intended. But, if you can move in and out of the record, finding your own passage through Measure, then you will be rewarded, as the group has cleverly constructed a piece of art that deserves your deconstruction.
It’s hard knowing who to follow in this group, as the members of Field Music also represent School of Language and The Weeks that Was. So, when news came that Field Music had new tunes to offer up on their web site, of course we jumped at the chance to get our hands on these songs. You can do it yourself by heading to the band’s web site, or just borrow one from us.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Measure.mp3]
Download: Field Music – Measure [MP3]