When I was a child, I remember that I used to build sandcastles at the beach. I tried to build moats to stop the waves from coming and washing away my creations, but eventually the sand proved too delicate to stand up to the power of the ocean. When I try to remember this, other memories come to me. But, the more I try to focus on any one aspect, the harder it is for me to hold my memory clear. The fickle thing that each memory is only wants to go away since it’s not its nature to be fully grasped.
Field Guides in their newest album This Is Just A Place has managed to evoke a feeling very similar to what I have when I try to recall a fond memory. Like remembering, the album’s sound is delicate and must be held tenderly if it’s to be shown at all. Through its vulnerability, This Is Just A Place urges you to listen closely since you can’t be sure if the sound will vanish if you are too rough with it. Through its steady, simple drum beats Field Guides lay on a myriad of layered sounds delicately balanced that manage, for the most part, not to fall apart under their own weight.
This Is Just A Place can be described as folksy. However, there are elements throughout the album that are reminiscent of genres that you would never consider compatible with folk. Saxophones, harmonicas, violins, synths, and soothing vocals come together on the album to their own distinct spot giving a diverse sound that reminds you of almost anything you’ve ever heard. Tying everything together is the steady beat of the drums. In addition, mixed on top of many of the songs there are sounds of nature, most obviously on the track “(field crickets & melodica).” Nature manages to subdue each distant element and organize it into its proper place so that no one sound overpowers the vibe of the album. This gives the album its delicacy that makes the sound feel like it could vanish at any moment.
The overlay of natural sounds works well with the theme of the album. Many of the songs tell stories of memories filled with imagery. The calming presence of these noises gives a sense of nostalgia as each song focuses on some feeling. This Is Just A Place invites you to lose yourself to the soothing vocals. Though the guitars present a sturdy, striking rhythm that can threaten to upset the entire ecosystem of each song, they become buoyed by the softness of the drums and vocals.
Overall, Field Guides’ newest album encourages you to remember something as you relax to its sounds. Some of the songs, like “Fake Calder, Pt 2” have more texture than others, but the result is an inspiring sound. At its best, this album makes you forget that you are listening to an album as each track seamlessly blends into the next as you lose yourself to the steady, soothing sounds as heard in “Year of the Horseshoe.” At its worst, the precariously balanced parts of the songs topple over as they seem to do in “Mondergreen.” When the magic is lost and the delicate balance is shattered, the songs seem to drag on and the sense of wonder is lost until nature manages to right itself.