Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays, 7-11 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy
Field Music: Commontime (Memphis Industries)
Field Music in a nutshell: difficult time signatures whizzing past, confounding jazz harmonies, an embarrassment of melodic riches — and all very British. Founded by brothers Peter and David Brewis, Field Music is the missing link between XTC, Peter Gabriel and 10cc — which means their songs can be challenging, obtuse, and an acquired taste. But it’s also the kind of music that rewards your attention with a major payoff: songs that dig their claws deep into the recesses of your mind.
The brothers Brewis throw dozens of new ideas at you, sometimes in one song. Nearly every track features odd textures and rhythms — architectural marvels in their construction, economy and durability. Commontime is the kind of album you need to hear a few times before you begin to understand it. There’s so much to absorb. Their style is unlike most any active artist, although I think they’re spiritually closest to Grizzly Bear.
The bedazzling jewel of Commontime is the lead-off track, “The Noisy Days Are Over.” Once Peter and David harmonize on the first chorus, you can’t turn away to save your life. It’s the first of several hooks as the song breezily chugs along, exiting with an unforeseen and gorgeous horn-laden outro reminiscent of Parade era-Prince (so much so that His Purple Majesty tweeted the song to his fans).
“Disappointed” is a clever twist on the trials of being the “end-all, be-all” for another person: “If you want me to be right every time…if you need me to be everything, you’re gonna be disappointed.” Add some Steely Dan chord voicings and you’ve got a perfect little pop song.
My only complaint is that the album could shed a few songs. It’s already a challenge to tackle an album this dense; cut it down to a more “classic” length of 40 minutes, and you have a top five record of the year.