The one thing that can never be said for Field Music’s latest album Flat White Moon, released on Friday, is that it’s boring. All over the album are interesting musical choices that seem to draw influences from everything from jazz to folk while still sounding cohesive. The brothers that make up the band, David and Peter Brewis, have outdone themselves with most of the instrumentation on the album. Though the album contains some fun tracks, the English indie-rock band still falls flat in terms of creativity and originality.
The riff on “Do Me a Favour” feels gentle and familiar while still enabling the track to experiment with dynamic vocals as the musicians switch between gentle crooning and harsher, punctuated lines. Playing into the theme of nostalgia and familiarity the pair sings: “That when I am out there/ With no one to hold onto/ I’ll have you in my head.” Every instrument adds another layer of melodic complexity to the song, ultimately ending with a sound significantly evolved from its initial simple guitar tune.
The track “No Pressure” is another example of this shifting pattern. It starts off with a powerful and jumpy bassline. The drums hop in to support the bassline, followed by David’s vocals. Piano flutters in and out, and the guitar starts playing a similar riff to the bass. As everything builds to a peak, most of the instruments suddenly fall away. Then, the familiar bassline starts up again, and all of the other instruments follow suit for a subdued finale. The band crafts a funky sound on the track, incorporating a multitude of background sounds, including electric keyboard notes and a vibraslap. Musically, this is the most interesting track by far, and it shows what the band can do at its best.
The one area where the band falls flat is with its vocals. Throughout the album, David’s vocals fail to blend with the track’s instruments, at times even coming across as sharp and biting. Something feels off the second he starts singing the opening line, “Mosaics of love and hate,” on the first track, “Orion From the Street.” It’s a shame because David’s voice isn’t terrible, but it simply doesn’t fit with the rest of the band and the album’s style. The album really shines when the instrumentals are allowed to shine on their own.
For instance, the strongest part of “I’m the One Who Wants to Be With You” is its funky bassline and energetic riffs. This particular track actually feels more like a funk-rock song, offering a slightly different genre from the other tracks. The song starts off with a groovy, catchy tune that’s sure to get anyone tapping their foot along. But, once the vocals come in, the track starts to lose steam. David’s singing lacks that signature punch that makes a lot of funk-rock bands work. The thinner quality of his voice makes him sound more like a dream-pop artist, and it disrupts the entire song.
At the very least, what David is saying isn’t half bad. Although it really does depend on the track, the lyricism is pretty solid throughout the whole album. The lyrics range from passively repeating the title of the song like on “Do Me a Favour” to some really interesting lines like “Belief in further lives / Separate but true / If I thought you were anywhere / I would be there too” on “Orion from the Street.” While the melody isn’t mind-blowing, a lot of the lyricism is decent enough to keep the vocals from becoming a total waste of time.
If the vocals were not as prominent, this album would be a lot stronger, but enjoying the instrumentation is difficult with David’s disruptive vocals. His lyrics detract from the impressive guitar riffs and playful percussion of “In This City.” The instrumentation never gets the opportunity to take complete control on the tracks, as they’re drowned out by David’s lackluster vocals.
Several issues hold Flat White Moon back from being a stellar album. The instrumentation and production are fantastic, but David’s vocals leave so much to be desired, as he refuses to let the instrumentation breathe. Flat White Moon is an excellent instrumental album hiding under subpar vocals.
Photo Courtesy of Memphis Industries