The last time we heard from Field Music was on 2007's phenomenal Tones of Town, an album that turned out to be one of the decades best - a sleeper-hit if there ever was one. If one could even find a flaw in that album, it would most likely be its brevity; clocking in at barely 30 minutes. Well it looks like the Brewis brothers are trying to make up for lost time because their latest release, Measure, is...a double album! If you're like me, the very term makes you uneasy, what with all the memories of bands who have been unable to hold a normal person's interest over the course of two whole CDs. Field Music, an unlikely candidate for such an endeavor, actually does a pretty decent job. While Measure may not be as instantly classic as its predecessor, it does have a wealth of music on it - both in length and depth!
On the band's previous albums, emphasis was placed heavily on piano-led compositions with expertly-crafted string compositions. The guitar, an instrument at the forefront of any modern band, was assigned to accompaniment duties, rarely getting a chance to lead a song's instrumentation. However, Measure is a very guitar-centric album, and it has more of a rock feel as a result. One could logically assume that this is due to the departure of keyboardist, Andrew Moore, but Measure is all the more interesting for it. David and Peter have the opportunity to shine in places where they had yet to fully display the depths of their talent (at least with Field Music). All that to say this: don't be too caught off guard when the album's opener features minimal, distant keys and heavy guitars.
The guitar-led awesomeness continues, most notably on "Each Time is a New Time," "Clear Water," or album centerpiece, "Let's Write a Book." The latter song features an incredibly funky bass line throughout, creating a groove that is wholly inescapable. Lead guitars are relegated to sparse but sexy flourishes. Still the highlight of the song has to be its instrumental bridge with an absolutely schizophrenic synth line accompanied by an equally crazy mallet part. Measure's first single, "Them That Do Nothing," is just as good, but in an entirely different manner. Of any of the album's great tracks, it alone sounds like something that could have fit nicely on their past albums. It's pop sensibilities and catchy melody are undeniable, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't listened to it on repeat at least a few times already.
Despite the fact that Measure is - by and large - a rock album, I've found that my favorite moments still lie in the album's poppier tracks; the two aforementioned tracks included. Disc 2's lead-off, "The Rest is Noise" is an absolutely stunning track as well, with a building melody that finally erupts into a mind-blowing (by Field Music standards) guitar breakdown! The album drifts solemnly into "Curves of the Needle," a slow, gorgeous song with heavy-handed Queen stylings. Even the lyrics "Oh to be young again/ to be loved again!" sound like they could have been ripped from Freddie Mercury's songbook. "Choosing Numbers" follows that track, showcasing an infectious composition and a passionate 80s-ballad-esque climax that people are bound to scratch their heads at.
While Measure is a terrific album by most standards, it is certainly not an easy one. The sheer size of the thing is at once its greatest draw and most-considerable burden. Simply put, there are some songs that require deeper listening to fully appreciate and you may find yourself skipping over them to get to the songs that you love immediately. For this, I'm glad that if the band was going to release a double album, they at least split it up onto two CDs. It makes the whole experience more manageable. At the same time, Measure does have a small handful of songs that probably could have been left off the album entirely without me batting an eye. While every song on here is worth listening to, I doubt many will always want to. In that way, Field Music has fallen into the same trap as most artist who try to tackle the double-album concept. Where the band exceeds is in creating something to which I'll continually return. Like a great novel, Measure is something you have to stick with in order fully understand and appreciate. Though I've only had it in my possession of a matter of days as of this writing, there's still so much for me to get to and discover! That's a feeling one rarely gets in the music world, so when it does appear, take note. You've stumbled upon something special.
1. "Them That Do Nothing"
2. "Lights Up"
3. "Let's Write a Book"
4. "The Rest is Noise"
5. "Curves of the Needle"
8 out of 10 Stars