In 2010, Field Mouse self-released their first full length album, ‘You Are Here’. Since then, the American dream-pop quintet pushed out two more albums through Topshelf records, combining noisy fuzz-laden guitars with Zoe Browne’s soft, angelic vocals.
Their latest offering, ‘Episodic’, follows in the same vein as their previous work, but manages to hold back a little on the fuzzy guitar sounds to offer an album that’s clearer and more refined, which allows the vocals to be heard and the synthesizers to compliment the layers of guitars and bass lines that are sometimes reminiscent of New Order in the 1990s.
A lot can happen in a year and over the twelve month period ‘Episodic’ was recorded, members of the band had experienced sudden family illness and a deteriorating relationship which are captured throughout the album. ‘What a way to say fuck off/through your teeth’, opens the album on ‘The Mirror’, certainly pulling no punches with the opening verse.
Browne’s lyrics vary from ambiguous on ‘Accessory’ – ‘I used to come here by myself/will you be my accessory’ – to direct on ‘The Order Of Things’ – ‘I’m lonely and I want to/see your face‘ – and we often hear tales of experiences and stories as if they were trains of thought. This sometimes makes them difficult to decipher but this is a good thing – it adds another layer to the fuzzy guitar melodies and interesting breaks that frequent the album’s ten tracks.
The pop sound of the album’s final track, ‘Out Of Context’, starts softly and slowly before the band discover release their inner noise through a Sonic Youth-style break and crank up the distortion for the album’s ending. Instead of speeding things up, the slowdown of the tempo is what adds to the atmosphere of the track, with Browne crying ‘It hurts/it hurts/it hurts’, over the top.
If there’s anything to complain about on ‘Episodic’, it’s that the band’s use of feedback and noise in the final track is so good, it’s a shame we don’t hear more of it throughout the album. There are snippets on a couple of the tracks but it often feels like some of the album is a little too refined and the wails of a screaming guitar would only serve to compliment a singer who, on ‘Half-Life’, says she’s ‘lived more lives than you‘.
That being said, Zoe Browne’s use of intonation and the way she can express bitterness through such angelic tones is to be admired. Her fellow band members manage to capture an atmosphere of post-punk summer pop which is bright and easy to listen to while at the same time compliments the melodic poetry of the vocals. A little more rawness and edge wouldn’t go amiss but apart from that, it’s an enjoyably honest journey which generously lets the listener know how the band have been feeling over the last twelve months.
‘Episodic’ is released on the 5th August via Topshelf records.
This Field Mouse article was written by Neil Stopforth, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : Shervin Lainez