No doubt Field Music fans have been champing at the bit for the release of their second album. After being treated to a collection of b-sides and rarities early last year, Tones Of Town, their second album proper, continues to demonstrate how proper pop music should be done – full of lush harmonies, skewed melodies and with an ear for delicately perfect tunes.
Tones Of Town is the sound of a band fully realising their potential: if you enjoyed their self-titled debut you’ll be fucking ecstatic with this album. If you didn’t quite get it first time round, this is the one to convince you.
The Sunderland trio have a knack for crafting absurdly clever, yet intrinsically simple, pop songs. From the chiming intro and joyous guitar riff of opener ‘Give It Lose It Take It’ right through to album closer ‘She Can Do What She Wants’ with its constantly changing style, bold brassy bass, and sweet as candy vocals. There simply isn’t a bad song on this album.
Field Music are never afraid to try something different –_ ‘Sit Tight’ _features wailing screams at the beginning and beat-boxing at the end, hemming in call-to-arms drums, constantly shifting melodies and a feeling of dark paranoia. The title track is crammed full of strange noises and multilayered vocals, with instruments appearing and disappearing all over the place so you’re never quite sure what it is you’re listening to. Rather than sounding confused or too busy, this approach serves to make you listen harder, straining to discern the marimba or vibraphone or strings or bizarre percussion, and it’s thoroughly charming.
The album has a solid theme of home – beginning with ‘Tones Of Town’ and continuing with a chunk of four songs dedicated to being away from home or feeling dislocated from it. ‘A House Is Not A Home’ has great bouncy guitars and delicate strings (“What’s the use in going home again, when it’s always the same”), which segues seamlessly into ‘Kingston’, dealing with displacement and disillusionment (“You work hard you get paid, but what’s the sense, it really makes no difference”). Then ‘Working To Work’ runs with this feeling, declaring “You’re working to work, and you pay to play” over a sprightly, upbeat melody and catchy, sing-along refrains. ‘In Context’ is explicit in its subject matter – “You’re a long way from home, all of the thoughts you have are not your own” – as the meandering guitar lines, rippling bass and joyous whooping at the end makes you want to dance along.
Although this album is chock full of musical gems,_ ‘A Gap Has Appeared’ _is a particular highlight. With its soft, muted vocal style, multi-layered harmonies and lush strings, it’s so completely enchanting it’d still be perfect without any vocal accompaniment.
‘Closer At Hand’ is my personal favourite, though – the song seems to suddenly appear, closely segued with the previous track, and simply delights from the very first chord. Chiming guitars, perfect keyboards, lovely little touches like the do-do-do rhythm and a keyboard that sounds like sighing vocals make the song instantly catchy. Always lyrically stunning, they really excel here, and the chorus is mind-blowingly ace:_ “Don’t you say no, ‘cause the longer we go, the closer at hand, I want you still and we are closer at hand”. It doesn’t make any sense written down but I defy _anyone to listen to this song and not leap about like a fool with a shit-eating grin their face.
The ethereal intro to ‘Place Yourself’ deftly changes the style once again and the words and music just seem to pleasantly wash over you and, before you know it, you’re completely enthralled. It only takes one forcefully sung sentence to get their point across; there’s no need for widdly guitar solos or fancy drums, just the careful intonation of their voices and the occasional bizarre instrument chucked in without warning. The songs get completely under your skin – they’re subtle, interesting and utterly engrossing.
I truly cannot think of a single bad thing to say about this album. It’s unpredictable, ridiculously clever, catchy as hell and as perfect a pop album as you’re ever likely to hear.
10Claire Dupree's Score