Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors

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Arrows & Anchors

Arrows & Anchors immerses listeners in a world they never fathomed imaginable.

Fair to Midland’s fourth studio album, released by E1 Music and produced by “Evil” Joe Barresi (Tool, Coheed and Cambria, Bad Religion), seamlessly blends a backbone of hard rock with intricate leads and sprinkles influences from hand-clapping pop to country folk.

Darroh Sudderth’s ranging vocals leads an audience everywhere from the gutter to soaring above cloud nine, and Cliff Campbell’s playfully rhythmic but full bodied guitar work somehow keeps them grounded the entire time. Jon Dicken lends bass that is dynamic and tasteful in a sinfully perfect tone, and Brett Stowers leaves it to wonder how one guy with only two arms can emphasize every right note and still remain totally locked into a song. All the while, Matt Langley’s keys overlay beautiful and sometimes unnerving melodies that give each song a very particular identity from the next.

Whiskey & Ritalin starts with a gut churning combination of pick slides and drum head abuse that serves as an audio wind-up that seems to be released like a haymaker when the song breaks into its first full band riff. It sets up the rest of the album to be chugging metal through and through, but the haunting intro and supercharged chorus of Musical Chairs makes it clear this album will take a different turn.  The foot-tapping Uh-Oh is so infectious that a vaccine is due out later this year, and the banjo ridden – yes, banjo – Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow strangely suggests Doc Holliday may have known what a talk box and a wah-wah pedal was. A Loophole in Limbo is airy and slightly dials back the intensity, but still leaves no doubt that it is a rock song.

Fair to Midland

The second half of the album offers the same unique listening experience as the first, and does not disappoint on lyrical content that is both thought provoking and mystifying.

Short-Haired Tornado: “If you have yourself a son I’m gonna tell your baby boy that Father Time’s chock full of lies so don’t jump in just yet.”

Rikki Tikki Tavi: “If I build the Ark, will you wait for the water?”

Golden Parachutes: “They’ll be skipping stones with your bones when these ants know where to find you.”

Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools: “He fights like hell because he wants to glow and would tackle the Sun to be a bright bulb.”

Coppertank Island: “Remember this: it’s just two cents. Two cents never made you rich.”

A track that can only be described as “epic” bookends the album.  The Greener Grass is a linear masterpiece that strays from repetition while telling a very dark story in a stream of magnificence and elegance. Weighing in at over 8 minutes long, it is hard to believe it can snare a listener’s intrigue for the whole duration, but it never fails to do so.

Fair to Midland’s Arrows & Anchors is highly recommended and receives 4.5 X’s – an imperfect score only because it has an ending.

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Audiovox – Self-Titled EP

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It’s a well documented phenomenon at this point. I can think of numerous examples of post-hardcore rockers I enjoyed listening to as a young teenager (Daryl Palumbo Glassjaw/Head Automatica, Dallas Green Alexisonfire/City and Colour, Jim Ward Sparta/Sleepercar, etc.) maturing and ditching their aggressive breakdowns and guttural screams to pursue the creation of more accessible pop, folk, and electronic music. Audiovox is from the same vein. Martin Bush and Brad Chancellor formerly of hard-rocking bands Salt the Earth and Orion, respectively, have put together a 6 song EP featuring some of the catchiest loops and choruses I’ve heard in quite a while.

From the opening track, Breaking Up is Breaking Out, to the final song, Mortimer, the 21:08 EP is a veritable sing-along of well crafted tunes. As vocalist, Bush’s crystal clear voice rarely approaches falsetto and sticks within a fairly limited vocal range. This allows those of us with even novice singing abilities to sound like Frank Sinatra as we capably chime in on harmony. Lyrically mature, the record feels like the musings of man reflecting on his late-teenage and early-twenty years. Love, breakups, complacence, and an eye toward the future seem to be reoccurring themes. A cool addition to the simple sleeve-packaging, the back of the CD case includes lyrics to all 6 songs.

I mentioned briefly in the opening paragraph that the songs were composed of the some of the catchiest loops I’d ever heard. In fact, if I were to describe the record as a whole with only one word, I would call it aqueous. The casiotones Bush produced on every song, pan from stereo left to stereo right like a gently rolling wave. Clicks and reverb complement the melodies throughout, never managing to conflict with or detract from the vocals or the structure of the songs. Chancellor’s drums add perfect contrast to everything else going on with driving rhythms and punctuating off-beats. My one complaint on the effort is near the 1:00 mark on the fourth song, Runtime Error. The “piano” sounds a little too much like a poor midi tone, but certainly a very nit-picky complaint.

Although I’m curious as to why they chose to go by the same moniker as recognizable electronics manufacturer, Audiovox, I’m quite curious to see how long it takes for these guys to take off.

Listen to the entire EP, streaming at myspace.

Recommended if you like: The Postal Service, Dntel, Electro-Pop in general