Field Music - Commontime LP
The Brewis brothers just can't help themselves. Despite all the solo and collaborative projects they work on separately, but mostly together, they always come back to Field Music. In the years since their last album, 2012's Plumb, David and Peter have stayed very busy as usual and along they way picked up a few new elements to add to Field Music's already wide range of ingredients. To go along with the blatantly prog elements brought to the fore on Plumb, on their 2016 album Commontime some very poppy stuff has been added. It seems the brothers have done a deep dive into the works of Hall & Oates and Phil Collins, leading to some of the catchiest Field Music tracks to date. The album kicks off with the super funky, horn-driven "The Noisy Days Are Over," segues into the very H&O-sounding "Disappointed," and then into the loping ballad "But Not for You," which features some stately grand piano and a soaring bridge. These three songs set the mood perfectly, bringing in slick pop sounds while folding them into the sound they've established over a long, brilliant run of recordings. The rest of Commontime is also very '80s pop-influenced, with all sorts of odd sonic tricks and smart musical bits added in to keep things weird while the drums lead the charge as usual. The brothers remain masters of arranging and choosing exactly the right instrument for each part of each song. Tracks like the rambling prog rock epic "Trouble at the Lights" show how well they can stretch out and do some serious sonic exploration, while the relatively sparse, Steely Dan-funky "It's a Good Thing" is proof that they don't need to lay it on thick to create something masterful. That song also does impressive things with the vocals, chopping and mixing them into a brightly shimmering brew, and featuring female singers for the first time. The entire album is full of the kind of brainy, hooky songs the brothers have made their staple, with just enough alteration and innovation to make it stand out from Plumb and the recordings that came before. The addition of simple pop elements to Commontime and the fact that the Brewis brothers manage to keep cranking out music this intelligent and flat-out fun to listen to without ever having the slightest dip in quality, makes it one of their more interesting and rewarding efforts to date.