Field Music Presents: The Week That Was | Mercury Lounge | 3.09.2009

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As should be done when touring any concept album, The Week That Was is played in its entirety, in order, with barely a quip in between songs. Though when it's done, Brewis says, sheepishly, "Well, that was 'The Week That Was.'" While the record, a 32 minute ode to Paul Auster, the media and '80s production, is lush with strings and other accoutrements, here it's a stripped-down four piece: TWTW mastermind Peter Brewis, his brother and Field Music colaborator David on drums, plus a guitarist/keyboardist and bassist who switches to marimba for the dreamy "It's All Gone Quiet."

Still, without the strings, the lovely "The Airport Line" shows it's prog roots and suddenly less Kate Bush and more Rush.* (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) There's also a little Steely Dan floating around in the ether ("Charly Freak"), which keeps popping into my mind as these guys are seriously good musicians. And when you've got those chops the tendency to go nerdy is always there. But The Week That Was is rooted in great songs, so the odd time signature and occasional noodling is welcome.

MP3The Week That Was – It's All Gone Quiet (buy it)

Stretching things out to proper set length is Field Music's first album chesnut "It's Not the Only Way to Feel Happy" and a cover of John Cale's "Fear is a Man's Best Friend."

SETLIST: Learn to Learn | The Good Life | The Story Waits for No One | It's All Gone Quiet | The Airport Line | Yesterday's Paper | Come Home | Scratch the Surface | ENCORE: It's Not the Only Way to Feel Happy | Fear is a Man's Best Friend

The Week That Was have a few dates left on this tour. Catch them if they stop near you:

Mar 11 Canadian Music Week at The Green Room Montreal, Quebec
Mar 12 Canadian Music Week at The Gladstone Hotel Toronto, Ontario
Mar 14 Canadian Music Week at The Mod Club Toronto, Ontario
Mar 15 The Grog Shop Cleveland, Ohio
Mar 18 Friends Bar @ SXSW Austin, Texas

*for about 20 minutes I was going with "less 90125 and more ELP" but I realized I really don't know enough about Yes to pull it off. But the idea was that the more overt Trevor Horn-isms got stripped away. Not that I know that much about Rush either, but I was forced to listen to 2112 enough by friends that I know it when I hear it.

Future Tense: The Week That Was Hit the U.S. in March

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Oh happy day. One of my favorite records of 2008 was The Week That Was' debut album, a lush production that recalls the days of Kate Bush, ZZT and The Blue Nile but minus some of the '80s ickier sonics. So I'm very curious how the Brewis brothers are going to pull the album off in a live setting when The Week That Was tours here briefly in March. But if anyone can do it, they can. Field Music were always great live, and all of them are also in TWTW. I guess the real question is how many other musicians will be along for the ride. I can't wait to find out. Here' where:

Mar 7 The Empty Bottle     Chicago, Illinois
Mar 9 Mercury Lounge     New York, New York (tickets)
Mar 15 The Grog Shop     Cleveland, Ohio
Mar 18 SXSW     Austin, Texas

The weekend of Mondo Kim's closing, I picked up the 7" of The Week That Was' brilliant "The Airport Line," mainly because it was $2 but then the b-side, the Razmataz Lorry Excitement remix of "Learn to Learn" turns out to be amazing, transforming the song from Peter Gabriel into Heaven 17:

MP3: The Week That Was – Learn to Learn (Razmataz Lorry Excitement remix)

And the original just for comparison purposes:

MP3: The Week That Was – Learn to Learn (album version)

Buy the album from Insound. It's brilliant.

Sound Bites Best of 2008 | Albums

2008 was a great year for good music and a pretty good year for great music. I kept expanding my list from 20 to 25 to 30, and then back down to 20 (sort of). Deciding what would be my #10 took forever. (The top #9 have been there for a while, with the order shuffling around till seconds from this posting.) And actually my Top 5 were as close as they've been in ages. My rules: whatever year an album is first made available in any legally obtainable format (CD, vinyl, digital, etc), that is the year it's eligible. No compilations of previously-released material. So no MGMT (came out last year), no Bon Iver (wouldn't have made it anyway). Without further ado, my favorite albums of 2008:

01metronomy

1. MetronomyNights Out (Because Music) | A couple things take Nights Out to the top slot of '08. They've worked out a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable whether it's their own tracks or the remixes they do for other artists. It's manic, with a water-damaged quality to it that sounds like what it feels to be up for 36 hours straight, buzzing on espressos (or whatever) but dead tired. In a good way, obviously. It sounds like nothing else. Plus, whistling! Above all else, it's my favorite of the year because it's almost all hits. Nights Out contains at least seven single-worthy tracks and absolutely no bad songs. How many albums can you say that about this year? 

MP3: Heartbreaker | A Thing for Me

Myspace | Buy it on Amazon

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2. Mystery Jets – Twenty One
(679 Recordings) | If you'd told me two years ago that Mystery Jets would make one of the best pop albums of 2008, I think I would've scoffed. Here was a band who claimed King Crimson to be a primary influence, and who never met 17 disparate musical ideas that they didn't like and want to put all into the same song. Not that they didn't have some good songs before but The Mystery Jets were just too damn inclusive. But there's no denying the pop smarts and inventive arrangements found all over their new album, Twenty One, a highly enjoyable statement about being young by people who actually are young. And like Metronomy, nearly every song could be a single. It seems unfathomable that this didn't get released in America.

MP3Young Love | Two Doors Down

Myspace | Buy It 

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3. Deerhunter – Microcastle / Wierd Era Continued
(Kranky / 4AD) | What a year Bradford Cox has had. Two Deerhunter albums, plus an album and six EPs under the Atlas Sound moniker. All of it good, some of it was amazing. Microcastle was the crowning achievement.  I liked Cryptograms but this is a stellar album, indie rock with a pop sensibility, and showcase for Cox's songwriting abilites and studio ingenuity. And that the suprise bonus album, Wierd Era, was nearly as good is all the more amazing. May 2009 be as fruitful for him.

MP3Deerhunter – Never Stops 

Myspace | Insound | Emusic

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4. Crystal Stilts – Alight of Night
(Slumberland) | The band I became more obsessed with in 2008 than any other, probably because they gave me seemingly endless chances to see them live, most of which I took advantage of. (I think I saw them 10 times at least.) Somewhere between Bo Diddly, JAMC, and The Chills lie Crystal Stilts' moody, twangy, echo-drenched sound which is even sweeter on vinyl. So many great songs, and seemingly sprouted fully-formed. According to lore, Alight of Night has been sitting around completed for four years waiting to be released! Seriously guys what were you waiting for? On the plus side: hopefully this will mean a second album will come sooner than later. 

MP3Crystal Stilts – Departure 

Myspace | Buy it 

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5. The Week That Was – S/T (Memphis Industries) | Field Music may have disolved but the Brewis brothers remain some of the most creative  – and prolific — artists working today. 2008 provided twice as much music. David Brewis gave us School of Language, which was good but a bit too clinical for my taste. But Peter Brewis' The Week That Was is a brilliant look at our obsession with media and instant information, inspired by Paul Auster and glistening like an '80s Trevor Horn production. If that all sounds overly heady, the album is resplendent with lovely melodies and big rhythms. And with brother David and Andrew Moore in the band too, the big headline is Field Music kinda never really broke up.

MP3The Week That Was – The Airport Line 

MySpace | Buy It 

06muslims
6. The Muslims – S/T
(1928 Recordings) | They may be now calling themselves The Soft Pack, but whatever the name this is one hot record. Like I've said before, these San Diegans aren't trying to reinvent the wheel. But they write great songs, sound raw and alive  and have mountains of the one thing you can't fake: attitude. The bullet-riddled vinyl EP you see here (which included a CD with three more tracks) has sold out two runs but will be reissued under The Soft Pack name as a 10-song LP in 2009.

MP3:   The Muslims – On My Time 

MySpace | 1928 Recordings

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7. Lykke Li – Youth Novels
(Atlantic Records) | Of all the Scandinavian pop singers out there (Annie, Robyn, et al), I think Lykke Li has the best chance of sustaining a career. Especially if she continues to work with colaborator/producer Bj√∂rn Yttling who helped her craft such a distictive organic sound to go along with all those catchy hooks. Li's voice — fragile, understated — makes Youth Novels all the more human.

MP3Lykke Li – Let It Fall 

MySpace | Buy It

08tvotr
8. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
(DGC) | Finally, TVotR deliver on the promise they made with that first EP back in 2003. Much like what The Associates, ABC, and Scritti Politti attempted in the mid-'80s, Dear Science is the post-punk asthetic applied to pop ideals. This is the sound of them really going for it — and succeeding spectacularly.

MP3TV on the Radio – Crying 

MySpace | Buy It

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9. Late of the Pier – Fantasy Black Channel (Parlophone) | The craziest record of the year that still manages to hold it together somewhat within pop boundaries. Within its grooves, Fantasy Black Channel offers up post punk guitars, synth pop, g-funk, glam hystrionics, prog… often wthin the same song. Take "Bathroom Gurgle" which melds Gary Numan and Queen like it was the most natural thing in the world. Just maybe not Earth.

Fantasy Black Channel gets a U.S. release through Astralwerks on January 13, 2009.

MP3: Late of the Pier – Heartbeat 

MySpace | Insound

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10. The High Dials – Moon Country
(self-released) | A late entry in the 2008 race, Montreal's High Dials exell at country-tinged psych-shoegaze (a sound that is timeless for me) and even though they no longer have a full-time sitar player, the songwriting remains top notch. This double-CD is only six minutes longer than thier 2005 album War of the Waking Phantoms but splitting it onto two discs makes it easier to take it all in. Plus, a sound this big kinda needs two discs. What it really needs is vinyl, but it's CDs and digital for now.

MP3: My Heart is Pinned to Your Sleeve | Invisible Choirs 

MySpace | Buy It

11 – 20, and more after the jump….

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New Mojo: Murmurs in White

Mojo_AugustI was talking to someone about MOJO and how I was impressed they hadn't put the Beatles on the cover yet this year. Then I got the new issue and learned that the next two issues are going to be devoted to The White Album, which sort of makes sense as it's a double album. For once, I'm not sure I learned a whole lot new in reading the 20-or-so pages spent on it, including a track-by-track breakdown of the first disc but I was excited to hear the White Album Recovered CD which features covers by Vashti Bunyan, Joan as Policewoman and A Girl Called Eddy giving interpretations of songs from the A platter.

Too bad most of them are on the unimaginative side. (To be fair, they're stuck with some of the more annoying songs in the Beatles catalog.) But leave it to Field Music to make things interesting. They take Ringo's "Don't Pass Me By" and mix it with "Don't Let Me Down," take liberties with the melody and turn it into full-on prog:

MP3: Field Music – The Week That Was

And actually, Vashti's take on "Martha My Dear" is rather lovely:

MP3: Vashti Bunyan – Martha My Dear

Speaking of Field Music, Peter Brewis' new thing, The Week That Was (which features everyone from Field music plus like six more members), gets Album of the Month status in the issue. Four Stars. (And I agree. It's great.) There's also two good R.E.M. articles, though — a state-of-the-band type thing and a nice look back at the recording of Murmur.

Next month, more White Album and a second disc of covers. I wonder what they're gonna do with "Revolution #9"?

The Music of Chance; or Single of the Week That Was

Field Music plus six
When Field Music announced a year ago that they were going on indefinite hiatus, I was sad, but it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise for fans as all it’s really meant is that the Brewis Brothers can now double their yearly output. Earlier this year we got School of Language, David Brewis’ somewhat mathy, hooked-on-phonics look at the way we communicate. Now comes brother Peter Brewis’ new thing, The Week That Was, a similarly high-concept venture that you don’t have to fully understand to enjoy. Here’s how the band’s label describes it:

The Week That Was, written and recorded in late 2007 at Field Music’s 8 Studio in Sunderland, emerged from an imagined crime thriller dreamt up by Field Music’s Peter Brewis and inspired by Paul Auster‘s labyrinthine storytelling. Peter started writing the songs as if they were moments, instances of perspectives within this story. The story was left to fall away, leaving a puzzle of musical snapshots. The songs are the evidence in this particular mystery and the victims, perpetrators and onlookers raise questions with concerns familiar to us all. How do we deal with the fragments of information we receive through the television, radio, the internet? How do we balance the distrust we feel for mass media with our dependence on it? How does this relationship influence our hopes and actions in our real lives? And finally, what would happen if we decided not to deal with it anymore and switched off the information flow by throwing away our TVs, radios and newspapers? The anger, confusion and sorrow details the week of Peter’s own enforced switch off. This may be about as conceptual as Peter will ever get.

Theweekthatwas2
The Week That Was are a much bigger band than Field Music, numbering (on record at least) somewhere around eight, including his brother and his old band’s keyboardist, Andrew Moore, plus a string section and the stray flute. And like School of Language, Peter Brewis’ songwriting style remains highly recognizable, not that far from Field Music at all, and some have said it’s indistinguishable from them. I would disagree — TWTW is a much warmer sounding record than anything his old band made. Peter claims musical inspiration came from the early ’80s when people were obsessed with Fairlight synthesizers and the Linn drum. But as I was listening to the album’s first single, “Scratch the Surface,” the more I listened the more it reminded me of Steely Dan than anything else. (“Night by Night,” specifically.)

MP3: The Week That Was – Scratch the Surface

The Week That Was’ debut is out August 18 in the UK and hits American shores on September 23. The video for “Scratch the Surface” after the jump:

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