First off, let me apologize to Alabama Shakes, Nick Waterhouse, John Fulbright, Michael Kiwanuka and Father John Misty (as I pretend you’re reading this). You guys put out some of the best debut albums of the year. No, some of the best albums of the year. The Shakes, we’ve had some good days firing up for a night out on the town. Nick, you’ve played every imaginary party I’ve thrown at my upscale NYC loft all year – and man, some crazy shit has happened. John and Michael, you guys have played at my real-world parties – the family BBQ’s and dinners with my wife and kids. Father John Misty Tillman, thanks for being extra weird.
But there’s this dude out in Wisconsin that makes me feel funny. It’s that feeling Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy feels after great golf swing, when “a tuning fork goes off in your heart and balls.” Field report is the tuning fork in my heart. And balls I guess.
The other day, when talking about music, someone asked me: “Do you play an instrument?” The answer is always “Never.” The follow up question is predictably “Then how did you get so into music?” I’m not sure I’ve discussed it here before, but my connection to music comes from moving every three to four years of my life. It takes about three years to make real good friends and I was conditioned to spend years building strong friendships just in time to say goodbye. Every three or four years – Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon, back to Ohio, on to Illinois, then to California, then Georgia, now Kansas again.
During these moves to new schools, there are periods of isolation. In a new town with no friends – unsure of everything. With no social life, I’d visit record stores and buy used CDs. I’d spend hours in my room listening to albums, flipping through liner notes and reading along to the lyrics in an attempt to understand the song meanings. Long monologue to get to a simple point: I fell in love with lyrics.
I always made friends and my social life would eventually get busy. I sort of missed that isolation and music became an escape. It still is. Field Report is a band where that escape and isolation is critical to its appreciation. If you’re busy, it’ll breeze by as if nothing was coming out of the speakers. If you’re listening, a new world opens up filled with incredible songwriting that features stunning prose instead of more conventional rhythmic verses. A perfect example of this is in the opening track and my favorite song of the year, Fergus Falls.
I was concealing his kid under his crewneck stateschool sweatshirt while he grinned off in the distance behind prescription shades that were blocking out the clouded out sun while he as hoping against a daughter and no one saw my banners, my bruises, my flares, my flags.
Longest sentence ever, right? Chris Porterfield doesn’t pin himself into lyrical corners when crafting his songs. If you’re unfamiliar with Chris, his first band broke up – one that consisted of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and the guys from Megafaun. He went on to write his own tunes, released some work as Conrad Plymouth and now works under the Field Report moniker. My two other favorite songs on the album are Taking Alcatraz and Incommunicado. Words from taking Alcatraz:
So I clear my name and clear my throat find my voice and here we go again I need a place to stand. I hear sirens down the street from the third shift bar I’m going to park my car in the painted-off place where the bikers park. We’ll see what happens then
And if I die here, well at least I made a choice. And if I’m fine here, you should tell the boys That a line in the sand don’t matter if you don’t care That a bird in the hand is worthless if you’re too scared.
And from the subtle climax of Incommunicado:
I could have been in California for coming up now on nine years
but I wouldn’t be here pining for you- I never would have made my way out here
where Dahmer sings the blues with Liberace as they sip on fifty cent beers
and watch themselves on a tube Hitachi holding hands in a bathroom mirror
when you coming home when you coming home when you coming home?
The Dahmer/Liberace reference has me perplexed, but it’s stunning to hear nonetheless.
Field Report broke out at SxSW this year and the self-titled debut is out on 9/11. Listen to two of my favorite tracks below. If you’re into it, just mark your calendar and pick up the album. Chris Porterfield can write some damn fine songs.