This is the second part of my guest blog series showcasing bloggers' favourite British albums of the past two years, under the guise of a celebration for the second anniversary of Keep Hope Inside.
Part Two sees Massachusetts' finest blogger, Jay of [clicky clicky], aka America's biggest Johnny Foreigner supporter and self-confessed fanboy, take on '7 From The Village' by Fields:
To help Saam mark two years of service to the blogosphere we'd like to tell you about our favorite British release of the last 720-some days. Truth is, it may be our second favorite. But our unchecked cheerleading over the last 14 months or so for Birmingham's Johnny Foreigner makes the trio's excellent EP Arcs Across The City too obvious a choice. A band that seems to have gotten somewhat lost in the shuffle is now London-based (at least last we checked) Fields. The act has undergone some changes during the lead-up to its planned sophomore full-length, which was being polished up in New York by fronter Nick Peill and drummer Henry Spenner in March, and truth be told we weren't blown away by all of Fields' major label full-length 'Everything Last Winter'.
We were, however, strongly taken with the band's '7 From The Village' EP, so much so that we named it one of our favorite releases of 2006. It's a charming blend of '70s pastoral psych-folk and contemporary indie rock centered around the undeniable pop gem 'Brittlesticks'. Time was, especially for those of us in the States investigating the band, there was no small mystery about the band. The hand-cranked black-and-white video clip for 'Brittlesticks', as well as several other contemporaneous -- and no less mysterious -- creepy black-and-white video "teasers" (see embed) on YouTube cast the band in a sort of eerie, "Blair Witch Project"-type visual context. For many of us passionate about music, penetrating the enigma of a new band is a large thrill, and Fields presented such a challenge, at least at first.
While 'Brittlesticks' is so strong a track we could dwell (and have dwelled) on it at length (particularly the lovely guy/girl vocal interplay in the chorus), we'll let an MP3 speak for itself and then devote the rest of this paragraph to other high points on '7 From The Village'. The band does itself a great service with the sequencing of the set, which opens with the urgent acoustic strumming and persistent declamations of 'Song For The Fields', and progresses into the uptempo cascade of 'Isabel', before hitting the emotional high of 'Brittlesticks'. 'Sisters' returns to the dark folk sound of the album opener before working itself into a frenzied dirge; the elegiac 'Roll Down The Hill' offers calm over a comfortable electronic beat; 'Heretic' cranks up the noise and the hypnotic swirl one last time before 'A Slow Crawling Hand' closes the short set out with a cinematic shuffle adorned with church bells, murmured vocals and what sounds like someone moving boxes around a cavernous and damp cellar.
It's quite a journey for an EP, and one we hope Fields in its latest iteration can recapture. In our opinion 'Everything Last Winter' reached too eagerly and openly for commercial success, so here's hoping the sophomore set will show the band embracing the mysterious once again.
Fields - '7 From The Village EP' (released September 12th 2006)
FIELDS - BRITTLESTICKS
'7 From The Village' is a US EP but is available from [Amazon.co.uk]