My Albums of 2012 – No. 1: Field Music ‘Plumb’

Field-Music-Plumb

How many of you reading this haven’t heard of Field Music, or if you have heard of them, haven’t listened to them? Possibly fewer people than this time last year, after their Mercury Prize nomination, but definitely still too many for what this band deserve. They are the national treasures you haven’t heard of yet and ‘Plumb’ is their masterpiece.

‘Start The Day Right’ kicks the album off with the twinkling sound of wind-chimes, before strings and piano build up to the start of the song proper – and what a song. The vocals drop in: “I’m sure I was dreaming, or was I just tired? A chance to start the day right”. It perfectly mirrors that feeling of waking up and wanting to make good use of the day. This lyric is swiftly followed up with the sort of guitar riff that will lodge itself in your brain for months, before the dreamy, vocals of the verse drop back in. Then, at 1:33, the time-signature changes and in comes a glorious piano-led middle-eight (I think?!), before the riff kicks back in. Then the song ends – after 2 minutes and 18 seconds. It’s a perfect introduction to the album: complex arrangements, changes of time-signature, beautiful melodies, great lyrics and, above all, pithy.

This album doesn’t waste a single second. The fifteen songs clock in at just over 35 minutes. The use of time and the melody is reminiscent of Abbey Road – I genuinely believe that this album stands up to that lofty comparison. There is so much to discover in this album that it rewards repeated listens, as the worn grooves on my copy of the LP prove. Picking out specific songs seems fruitless, given the quality over the course of the album, but the peculiar funk of ‘A New Town’ is particularly wonderful, with another of those brain-melding riffs and, above-all, the gorgeous melodies and harmonies. Even if you don’t care about the time-signatures, or the riffs, the melodies will keep you listening over and over again.

‘Choosing Sides’ looks at the complacencies and frustrations of modern life, of people opting out of choosing sides and of wanting something better than consumerism: “I want a better idea of what ‘better’ can be that doesn’t necessitate having more useless shit“. This is an album that is political, but without being preachy or reciting slogans. Instead, it looks at the minutiae of modern life, but with a focus on wanting to improve somehow, even if they (and we) don’t know how to set about improving just yet – it suggests the need for change, but doesn’t force this down your throat.

There is something very English about this record, but not in any jingoistic, patriotic sense, nor is it London-centric – not from this (very much) Sunderland-based band. This is the England of Larkin and Betjeman, with all its quiet desperation, made more acute by the distractions of consumerist life. This is best summed up in the final song, a song about obfuscation and the difficulty of trying to sum up complicated political notions for a mass audience, ‘(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing’. It’s astonishingly intelligent and it’s as catchy as the common cold. It’s everything indie music, pop music, whatever you want to call it, should be.

Field Music aren’t a fashionable band; they are never going to move down to London to pursue money and fame, but quietly, subtly, they are becoming one of the great British bands. Plumb is a masterpiece and, for me, by far and away the best record of 2012.

 

 

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