Released this week, Nashville based Foreign Fields’ sophomore album Take Cover sees the band make a pretty subtle but major departure from their 2012 debut Anywhere but Where I Am. On Take Cover band members Eric Hillman and Brian Holl have made a noticeable shift in lead instrument from guitar to keys while also upping the production stakes. So much so in fact that the lead instrument on each track serves only as a skeleton which is then fleshed out by an atmospheric landscape of loops and beats. It’s a process you could hear the seeds of on last year’s E.P What I Kept in Hiding, on songs like ‘Little Lover’, but it has been ramped up a couple of notches on this offering.
Often artists have a certain theme they want to run through the spine of a record whether it be lyrically or musically. This feels like one of those records but it also feels like that pre-conceived idea has been to the detriment of some of the songs. By the third, there are no surprises left, and it begins to feel like each is going to bleed into the next.
There are a couple of notable exceptions, songs that stand out despite the uniform arrangement they’re somewhat confined to. ‘Grounded’, for example, during which a renegade case of foot tapping is likely to break out among the hand claps and the warm, fuzzy Mexican horn that percolates around the coda at the spine of the song.
There’s an underlying current of quality songwriting on this record, lyrically striking at times, though more often hypnotically repetitious. The majority of that repetition has been created in the production phase rather than in the song writing and you can’t help but feel it takes away slightly from the songs. On Anywhere but Where I Am, Foreign Fields used similarly studio constructed wizardry but it was subtly draped around the songs – on this record those backing tracks take centre stage and the tracks mostly suffer from this treatment. Not every one, to be fair. At times it works well, but using this process throughout the majority of the album brings about a sense of monotony that betrays the quality of each individual song.
Solid, well-constructed songs, strong vocal performances and engaging lyrics but it all feels a little bit smothered by the blanket production techniques used.