FIELD REPORT-MARIGOLDEN.

FIELD REPORT-MARIGOLDEN.

It was back in 2012, that Field Report, released their eponymous debut album. Two years later, and singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield and his  band return with their sophomore album, Marigolden, which was recently released by Partisan Records. However, much has happened to Field Report in the intervening two years.

Since the release of Field Report’s debut album back in 2012, the Milwaukee-based band have been busy. They’ve been touring relentlessly across America. From tiny venues, right through to amphitheatres, audiences have been won over by Field Report. So have some of the biggest names in music. 

This included two of Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. When they heard Field Report, they asked them to support them on their recent tours. For Field Report, this was a dream come true. They were huge fans of Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. However, it wasn’t just Counting Crows and Aimee Mann who were won over by Field Report.

Suddenly artists Field Report had previously looked up to, were championing their music. Artists like Mark Eitzel and Richard Thompson were championing their music. Then all of a sudden, the Blind Boys Of Alabama decided to cover one of Field Report’s songs. Everything in Field Report’s world seemed to be going so well. Then fate intervened.

Having recorded Field Report as a sextet, the group lost three members during 2013. The constant touring, and growing tensions within the band took their toll. This could’ve proved fatal for some groups. However, not Field Report. They regrouped and returned stronger. 

So much so, that in December 2013, Field Report were ready to record their sophomore album Marigolden. So, singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield and the rest of Field Report, Chris headed to snowy Ontaria. That’s where Field Report recorded Marigolden, which was produced by Robbie Lackritz.

Recording of Marigolden took place at the Unicorn Ranch, Ontario. That’s where the slimmed down lineup of Field Report recorded the ten songs penned by Chris Porterfield. Chris also played guitar, piano, synths and added lead vocals. Shane Leonard played drums, guitar, banjo, Gourd banjo, violin, percussion, electronics and vocals. Ben Lester played pedal steel, synths, piano, percussion, electronics and guitar. Tamara Lindeman adds vocals and Travis Whitty plays bass, synths and adds vocals. Once Marigolden was recorded, in snowy Ontario, the album was delivered to Partisan Records.

They scheduled the release of Marigolden for November 2014. That’s two years since Field Report first burst onto the scene with their eponymous debut album. Has Marigolden been worth the two year wait? That’s what I’ll tell you.

Decision Day opens Marigolden. It has an understated arrangement. Just a slow, deliberate, acoustic guitar and pulsating percussion accompany Chris’ worldweary vocal. At last, the snow is melting and finally, he can see the world outside. Gradually, he sees the world outside taking shape. Boredom gives way to hope and maybe, happiness on Decision Day.

Home (Leave the Lights On) was the lead single from Marigolden. It’s a homecoming song, where Chris returns from a long, gruelling tour to his family. He sings: “but leave the lights on, cause it might be nighttime when I get there, but I’m on my way.” There’s a nod to The Travelling Wilburys on this track. That’s down to the vocal, rhythm section, acoustic guitar and weeping pedal steel. The only slight disappointment is the sometimes synthetic sounding drums and the use of a synth. Mostly though, this is a really catchy track, with a strong narrative and a feel good sound.

A wash of weeping guitar opens Pale Rider, setting the scene for Chris’ vocal, where he reconsiders sobriety. He delivers a soul searching vocal, where you’re privy to hear his deepest fears. He’s scared that he’s going to climb on the back of the “pale horse outside my door.” He knows where that leads. Birthdays forgotten, weekends lost and broken relationships. As Chris delivers his vocal, a minimalist arrangement envelops it. Just backing vocalists, weeping pedal steel and acoustic guitars accompany Chris, on what’s a heartfelt, soul-baring opus.

Just a muted, meandering and thoughtful guitar opens Cups and Cups. It’s the accompaniment for Chris’ tender, wistful vocal. Still the arrangement is understated. Drums, scrabbling percussion and muted guitars help drive the arrangement along. However, what grabs your attention is Chris’ vocal. It’s whispery and pensive, as memories come flooding back. Meanwhile, synthetic drums crack and stabs of piano, adding an element of drama. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Chris’ vocal on this eighties influenced soundscape.

On Ambrosia, a maudlin Chris, sings about the stark reality of his love-hate relationship with a bottle. His voice sounds as if it has been scarred by one too many drinks. It’s rough, ragged and hued by a lifetime of carousing. His lifelong, love-hate relationship with a bottle has made Chris maudlin. He reflect on his past, the people he knew, and what became of him. Accompanied by a piano on what sounds like a Neil Young inspired ballad, he ponders the future, wondering what it holds for him? Will he always want to drown himself in a bottle, or somehow, will he resist the temptation to do so?

Wings has a much more experimental sound. Slowly, the arrangement reveals its secrets. Just slow, deliberate keyboards and sci-fi sounds accompany Chris’ husky, drawl. He snaps his fingers, as if encouraging the rest of the band. Instruments are dropped in just at the right time. This includes a guitar, piano, percussion and a grandiose swell of synth strings. They set the scene for Chris. He’s desperate, out of luck and money. As the strings reach a crescendo, the arrangement shows not just its secrets, but another side and sound of Field Report.

Marigolden sees a return to a much more traditional sound. It’s best described as alt-country. Just a picked acoustic guitar and percussion accompanies Chris’ vocal. It veers between heartfelt, emotive and melancholy. Later, sweet harmonies accompany  Chris’ what’s a tale of love lost and maybe, love found.

Meandering, dramatic, flourishes of piano open Michelle. It’s the only accompaniment to Chris’ vocal. It sometimes, reminds me of Jackson Browne in his seventies heyday. Just like Jackson, Chris is a talented singer-songwriter, who has the ability to paint pictures with his lyrics. The main difference is the arrangements. Chris’ arrangements are much more minimalist. Here, a weeping pedal steel, hypnotic drums, wistful acoustic guitar and piano create an understated backdrop. This however, allows Chris’ vocal to take centre-stage. His lyrics veer between dark and hopeful. It’s as if Chris’ inner pessimist and optimist are in conflict. Hence, lyrics like “I will drive us of the cliff to the ravine” and “now it’s leaking love in my captain’s car.” These lyrics showcase a hugely talented singer-songwriter, with a thousand stories to tell.

Washes of synths and lumbering drums set the scene for Chris’ vocal on Summons. He’s happy, that his tour is nearly over. He’ll be able to see his wife and family. Guitars weep and longing fills Chris’ vocal as he sings: “I’ll be coming home.” As tiredness and desperation threaten to overcome him, he looks forward to “coming home.”

The tracks that bookend an album have to standout. An artist wants to draw the listener in, keep their attention and leave them wanting more. That’s the case with Enchantment, which closes Marigolden. It’s just an acoustic guitar that accompanies Chris’ vocal. Guilt and sadness fill his voice. He cashed in a 30-day chip for a kiss. Now he’s racked with guilt. Guitars weep, synths sweep and harmonies coo. All the time, Chris tries to come to terms with his actions. He can’t though. Deep down, he knows he’s hurt his wife, who he misses, and loves, more than anything. Guilt, hurt, and regret all play their part in a heartbreaking song that leaves you wanting to hear much more from Field Report.

For many groups, their second album is the hardest of their career. There’s been many reasons put forward why that’s the case. Often a group that’s young and hungry, will have already written their debut album before they sign to a label. They’ve spent years writing and honing that album. Sometimes, the album is already recorded. All that’s left is for the record company to release it. They cover themselves by saying that the album is a demo. Then lo and behold, it’s a critical and commercial success. The band are then asked to write another album while touring their debut. This proves problematic. So when the sophomore album disappoints, in years to come, it’s often referred to as the “difficult second album.” Thankfully, that’s not the case with Field Report’s sophomore album Marigolden. It could’ve been though.

Since the release of Field Report’s debut album back in 2012, the Milwaukee-based band have been busy. They’ve been touring relentlessly across America. From tiny venues, right through to amphitheatres, audiences have been won over by Field Report. They’ve also backed the Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. For Field Report, this was a dream come true. They were huge fans of Counting Crows and Aimee Mann. Everything in Field Report’s world seem going so well. Then fate intervened.

Having recorded Field Report as a sextet, the group lost three members during 2013. The constant touring, and growing tensions within the band took their toll. This could’ve proved fatal for some groups. However, not Field Report. They regrouped and returned stronger.

That’s apparent when you listen to Marogolden. It’s a highly personal album that was penned by singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield. He writes about his loneliness on long, gruelling tours and his battle with alcohol. Listening to Marogolden, Chris appears to be a man whose constantly struggling darkness and demons. Out of his darkness comes music that’s poetic and personal. 

During Marogolden’s ten track, Chris lays bare his soul. There’s no machismo involved. This isn’t an album that celebrates the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Far from it. Chris seems to shun and fight it. He doesn’t want to embrace the debauchery of a rock ’n’ roll tour. No. He’s a family man, who just so happens to be a musician. This can’t be easy. After all, temptation is around every corner. Chris realises this and instead, Marogolden is a warts and all album. 

Chris isn’t afraid to share his problems on Marogolden. This could help others, especially those who face the same love-hate affair with the bottom of a bottle. The same goes for loneliness. 

Just like many people, when Chris tours, he’s far from home. Many people will be able to relate to the loneliness of Summons. Hopefully, they’ll be able to resist cashing in their chips like Chris does in Enchantment, which closes Field Report’s sophomore album Marigolden.

Featuring ten tracks, Marigolden sees Field Report combine alt-country, folk, electronica, indie rock and rock over tracks. Field Report sound as if they’ve been influenced and inspired by Neil Young, Jackson Browne, The Jayhawks, Wilco and Gram Parsons. The result is Marigolden, an album of music that’s highly personal. It’s also variously beautiful, dramatic, emotive and full of darkness, hope, hurt and sadness. Marigolden, Field Report’s sophomore album sees them mature as a band. 

Over the last two years, Field Report have grown and evolved as a band, since the release of their eponymous debut album. Marigolden, which was recently released by Partisan Records, has been well worth the two year wait. It’s a coming of age from the Milwaukee-based Field Report, who continue to win friends and influence people on their highly personal, soul baring, sophomore album Marigolden.

FIELD REPORT-MARIGOLDEN.

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