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Field Music - Tones of Town

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Artist: Field Music

Album: Tones of Town

Label: Memphis Industries

Review date: Feb. 27, 2007

Tones of Town is the second album from Sunderland, England’s Field Music. Their self-titled debut offered up the kind of virtuosic but bland rock beloved of composition majors. Like Ben Folds and The Decemberists, the majority of Field Music was thoughtful without being provoking. Tones of Town, released on Memphis Industries, features music in a similar vein with a few unexpected flights of inspired composition that take this album beyond the merely derivative.

The first track on Tones of Town, “Give It Lose It Take It,” begins with great promise, layering together a field recording from a bar, some Brit pop and childlike mallets. After the first 40 seconds, however, the song charges into a bright, bouncy retro rock anthem that would not be out of place on a Sloan set list. Much of Field Music’s sophomore effort plays like that first minute: extremely unoriginal, but well-crafted rock shot through with tantalizingly brief moments of interest. "Sit Tight,” ”Closer at Hand,” and the finale, "She Can Do What She Wants,” contain 10 to 40 seconds of great music that make the remaining minutes of each song seem irrelevant. “Sit Tight” is a particularly frustrating example. The song evolves from derivative indie pop into a sweetly off-kilter mix of blue-eyed beat boxing, falsetto back-up vocals, piano, and bells that should have been explored much further.

The remainder of Tones of Town offers no such refuge from bland pop rock. The other songs are seamlessly constructed, and two (“Kingston” and “Working to Work”) make for very pleasant listening, but they proffer only what has been done and redone a million times before. The lyrics explore a timid sort of workaday dissatisfaction and are as painstakingly unoriginal as the chord progressions behind them. These boys are clearly capable of more than imitation and distillation of music past, but seem afraid to step out of their comfort zone for more than a few seconds at a time. Tones of Town hints that the band may be shedding the trappings of sugary guitar pop and moving on to something more compelling, but Field Music have much further to go before they reach their full potential.

By Malini Sridharan

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