Fair To Midland - Arrows & Anchors
It was some time ago now, but Texas' Fair To Midland made a very strong statement on their previous album Tales from a Mayfly, a statement that I ate up at the time. I never really lost track of the band, but somehow missed the release of their follow-up Arrows and Anchors up until just recently. It's a shame, too, because I have no doubt 2011 would have been that much better had I heard it then. From album to album, these guys have not necessarily improved all that much (there wasn't a whole lot of room for it to begin with if you ask me), but they've definitely progressed into a more diversive, immersive entity.
The usage of interludes is as often a nice touch as it is a distracting element, and, if I say anything bad about Arrows and Anchors it'll be that their usage of them falls very much in between the good and the bad. Not necessary, not so bad as it distracts from the rest of the album. As the organs of "Heavens to Murgatroyd" abruptly shift into the high-octane alt-metal riffage of "Whiskey and Ritalin", however, any troubling thoughts of silly interludes is just as abruptly forgotten. Right away the band throws some of their most inspired and aggressive material to date at us, with a song begging to be both a live staple and a dedicated radio single. After just a spin or two of Arrows and Anchors, you see how almost every song lifts up off the tracklisting as being a memorable moment. The bombast and vocal melodies of so many of the tracks leave lasting impressions, from the soaring "Musical Chairs" to the edgy, electronically infused "Uh-Oh" and "Coppertank Island". The beautifully written "Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow" may be the album at it's most polished, while "Rikki Tikki Tavi" spills over with a terrific dynamic of aggression and placid serenity. This dynamic is as much a product of the band as a whole as it is a quality of vocalist Darroh Sudderth, whose range and ability is, even surrounded by such a strong and capable band, the obvious selling points.
As I am continually impressed with Fair To Midland I ultimately find myself curious as to how a band so talented and multi-faceted can continue to not be annoited as the saving grace of a stagnant and truly boring modern rock scene. Perhaps it's the experimentation and wholesale bounty of musical directions the band dabbles in, or perhaps the masses simply are not accustomed to such bravery and skill in their music. Regardless, Arrows and Anchors is easily one of the best records of the past few years, a brilliant collection of impacting statements of musical ingenuity and an ear for what sticks.
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