Review: FIELD REPORT
The Satellite, Hollywood California
November 13, 2014
By JEFF GOLD
Rarely do I get too excited about music anymore that I hear on the radio, as I hear little that doesn’t sound disposable. But heading home one night, I tuned into L.A. college station KCSN, and heard a song so great it got my attention. It was “Home ( Leave The Lights On ),” by a band from Milwaukee called Field Report. It sounded like a hit song that hadn’t received the audience that it deserved. I wanted more.
So I got the album from which it came, Marigolden. It blew me away. Every song is a gem. It’s fresh sounding throughout, with intelligent lyrics and captivating melodies, all framed in beautiful arrangements. The only other artists that I have gotten this excited about in the past few years are Kathleen Edwards and Laura Marling, two great songwriters.
Besides the sheer power of the songwriting on Marigolden, it’s impeccably produced. Robbie Lackritz, best known for his work with Feist, beautifully co-produced it with the band. Recorded during a particularly icy December last year in Ontario, it was a project which forever changed the band, as they shifted from a septet down to the current quartet.
The driving force behind the band is Chris Porterfield [the band name an anagram of his surname]. Formerly a member of Justin Vernon’s first band, DeYarmond Edison, he’s a songwriter of rare and genuine power; rarely do you hear lyrics this good anymore. His music is real and meaningful, and rendered with an honest and emotional voice.
So when they came to town, I wanted to be there. I knew they’d been touring around America for a long time, playing both big amphitheaters and tiny, intimate venues, and opening for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Aimee Mann and Counting Crows. Here in town they opted for intimate: the Satellite in Hollywood.
I got there early. A disco light was spinning, the drinks were watery and overpriced, but the sound system was excellent. I had to sit through two opening acts, but it was well worth the wait.
From Field Report’s first song “Decision Day,” I was transfixed . This is band of exceptional musicians, and with ideal arrangements for Porterfield’s powerful songs. Along with his unpretentious and heartfelt lead vocals, there’s Thomas Winsek, an all-around musical master who moved easily from bass to keyboards, sang harmony, and created amazing sonic atmospheres with graceful computer programs. Shane Leonard supported well with tasteful drumming and nice banjo playing, adding the third of the three-part harmonies to complete the picture.
With a Midwest sensibility throughout, Porterfield’s songs were beautifully and powerfully realized. Standouts included “Michelle,” as well as “Cups and Cups,” which harkens back to Peter Gabriel’s So, the haunting piano ballad “Ambrosia,” and from their first album, “Fergus Falls.”
If you’re yearning to hear a new band as great as the old ones we have loved for so long, listen to Field Report. If they come to your town, go. It will be a night of music that you won’t soon forget.