Fair to Midland
Arrows and Anchors


4.5
superb

Review

by John weathered old reviewer Hanson STAFF
July 13th, 2011 | 212 replies | 23,928 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is what listening to a bands "magnum opus" sounds like. Maybe

It’s hard to not qualify the greatness that is Arrows and Anchors; nearly every thing done here can be so, so, so easily traced back to El Cielo and Catch Without Arms. Yeah, it’s heavier as a general rule, and while Darroh Sudderth may have more range than Gavin Hayes has ever had, his vocals still serve the same incredibly melodic and soothing function. This is a band that takes that entrancing alternative rock sound dredg ‘pioneered’ and adds in a myriad of new quirks and facets, and with that I can finally say: Arrows and Anchors is the best album of the year so far. Period.

The magic of the album lies in how many different types of music Fair to Midland can jump between without it ever not distinctly seeming necessary. For every chugging alternative riff, for every piercing wale, for every majestic instrumental bridge, there is a banjo driven verse, a synth led monologue, a thrash chorus, or just an 11 minute progressive masterpiece. The album jumps through so many distinct moments phases that’s its impossible to distinguish them all: the key is they’re all so natural it never even seems like Fair to Midland are doing something strange or weird.

Which is good, because if that was the case it would take away from the amazingly well crafted songs. Fair to Midland’s unique songwriting approach isn’t of the basic mess with basic song structure to create variety range. Instead, the band give each song an individual identity; you’ll remember “Uh Oh” as the pop song with the low key verse and soaring chorus, “Amarillo Sleeps on my Pillow” as the ‘banjo-prog’ song drifting through folk and thrash with little distinction, “Rikki Tikki Tavi” as that song, “Golden Parachutes” the one that the chorus blows you away every single goddamn time…I could go on for every song here, but it’s unnecessary: the album does that for me.

Throughout it, there is a strong sense of continuity. It’s not created by the lyrics, which while fairly impregnable, all have a dark, deep sense of meaning (except “Rikki Tikki Tavi”…they keep it humorous sometimes still). The sequencing of the record is impeccable, with Cliff Campbell’s impressive riffage and Brett Stowers and Jon Dicken’s rhythm section keeping the sound heavy and plodding throughout nearly the entire record. The real stars of the show are Sudderth and keyboardist Matt Langley; many of the albums brightest moments are when Langley’s keys are allowed to shine through with simple yet efflorescent melodies, while Sudderth’s vocals are a wonder to behold. Unlike many other vocalists whose talent and range causes them to sound ridiculous and forced at time (*cough* Daryl Palumbo *cough), Sudderth sounds natural throughout, switching from low growls to impossible highs, from a soft croon to a folk twang. There is a majesty to his performance that is rarely heard in a rock album, and it pushes Arrows and Anchors over the top.

I hate to be effusive, but Arrows and Anchors is a masterpiece. It takes the wonder of El Cielo, mixes it with the heavy prog of Tool, and goes all [insert Mike Patton project here] in its weirdness. It draws from so many different sources and places, its tough to categorize this as simply an “alternative” album. This is the true definition of a prog album, challenging the idea of what a traditional rock album has to be. Let us just hope that in the future, they can come up with a better jape than “Rikki Tikki Tavi”…as lovely as it might be to hear RIKKI TIKKI TAVI one thousand times in one song.



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user ratings (756)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Jacob R. STAFF (2.5)
Relying on a blueprint that's inherently flawed is never the best idea....

thatdudeud0ntknow (5)
Fantastically weird and wonderfully wacky, Fair to Midland’s latest LP is no doubt one of the best...

Mike Stagno EMERITUS (4)
Arrows & Anchors isn't quite as instant as its predecessors, but it flourishes with repeated listeni...

Billy (4.5)
Beautiful, original and crushing, all at the same time. Arrows and Anchors is one of the best releas...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2011



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

lol gotcha

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2011



15732 Comments


HEY!!! johnnnnnn

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2011



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

hey adam have you listened to this its really good

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2011



15889 Comments


Had me fooled. Damn now I'm the only one who doesn't think Fair to Midland shits rainbows.

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
July 13th 2011



2806 Comments


wait

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2011



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

have you tyler? its really good

Crowe
July 13th 2011



435 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Traitor.

rasputin
July 13th 2011



14540 Comments


lol

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
July 13th 2011



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Sputnik Warfare - At War With the Userbase

Masochist
July 13th 2011



8012 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

NEG'd. Ass.

Digging: He Is Legend - Heavy Fruit

rasputin
July 13th 2011



14540 Comments


Sputnik Warfare - At War With the Userbase


hahaha

Wheelah
July 13th 2011



756 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Giving this another chance. Right now it's about a 3.5-4 in my book, and I like FTM. Hoping this is a grower.

Mikesn
Emeritus
July 13th 2011



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

how am i supposed to follow this up JOHN

coleba
July 13th 2011



788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol wow

derekkp
July 13th 2011



141 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I'm listening to it while I'm reading this review!

Vooligan
July 13th 2011



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've been replaced haha

Wheelah
July 13th 2011



756 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Gave it another chance. FTM, I am disappoint.

Back to Botch.

Outnumbered
July 13th 2011



370 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^owned

coleba
July 13th 2011



788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I see what you did there. Dropping my rating to 1.5. I kinda thought people were overreacting to production so I went back and did a head-to-head with Fables and wow...no joke. Darroh's lyrics are so wicked. The way he uses cliches and twists them around is hilarious -- 'If curiosity kills the cats, we better teach the cat to fight back.' So win.

IrishJay91
July 13th 2011



688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you tricky bastard.
production's frustrating, but the songs are still so enjoyable.



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