Review Summary: Fantastically weird and wonderfully wacky, Fair to Midland’s latest LP is no doubt one of the best albums to grace the music industry so far this year.
I remember first seeing this album in a Target store a couple weeks back. I’d heard lots-and I mean lots-of good things about the record so I picked it up and checked it out. Flipping the case over to read the song titles, my attention was grabbed before I’d even heard any of the tracks. “Typhoid Mary Sends Her Best?
” “Rikki Tikki Tavi?
” “Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow?
” I’d struck musical gold for sure-Heck, even the song titles were more interesting than the crap that was spewing from the store’s radio (Lowlife
by Theory of a Deadman. Just saying.) So when I arrived home later that day I checked out a few songs on Youtube, just to see if the album was as good as its quirky song titles suggested.
Next day, I’d already purchased the album. And that may well have been the best $14 I’ve ever spent in my entire life. Arrows & Anchors
is a strange little gem-a mash-up of genres, crafted together immaculately and seamlessly. There’s hard rock, there’s metal, there’s progressive, there’s even folk, country, and a faint taste of electronic scattered in the mix too. It may seem like a weird combination at first, because, well, it is. And yet, the band’s amazing songwriting talents blend the genres so perfectly it works amazingly well. And this isn’t the kind of album you pick up, enjoy for a week and then forget about. This album drives itself deep into your brain and lodges firmly in, holding the interest of the listener fortunate enough to stumble upon it with its wacky song-writing, fantastic musicianship, great melodies and the astounding vocal prowess of the lead singer.
Now I would usually try to stay away from 5/5 ratings, because no album is perfect, obviously. But I couldn’t find a single problem with Arrows & Anchors
large enough to take off an entire half star from the album’s overall rating. I don’t know where to begin with this release, there’s so much to talk about here, but I guess we should start with the musicianship. Not only is it varied but it just downright kicks ass too-for example, who’d have thought the chugging, heavy, in-your-face riffing of Whiskey and Ritalin
was performed by the same man who so perfectly pulled off the beautiful, soothing guitar of Golden Parachutes
? The rhythm section does its job and does it extremely well too-carrying the songs with fantastic and clearly audible bass lines (Don’t believe me? Check out lead single “Musical Chairs
”) and powerful drumbeats. We can’t forget the keyboardist here either-the addition of piano into these songs really adds that extra layer, that extra dimension, which makes songs sound so much fuller, thicker, and ultimately more interesting. Even banjos, electronic elements and similar oddities for the genre are blended in to make the music section that little bit more interesting, that little bit more curious, and that little bit more memorable.
The vocalist is just another of the band’s strong points. He pretty much spans the entire vocal spectrum, and often in the same song he switches from polar opposites effortlessly (Amarillo Sleeps on my Pillow
, Rikki Tikki Tavi
). The man can pull of pretty much anything; his vocals always fit the song perfectly and the strong melodies or harsh, aggressive growls just carry the tracks along. Never before have I heard such contrast from just one man (I would never have guessed that the same man who growls and screams throughout Rikki Tikki Tavi was the same man who’s voice soared so melodically and beautifully through Short-Haired Tornado).
The songwriting here is beyond, as well. As mentioned earlier, the band throws in a bit of everything. Where other hard rock bands would chuck in some power chords, Fair to Midland pull out a banjo and throw in some folk influence. Where a 3 minute break-up ballad would usually sit, a beautiful, ten-minute progressive/rock piece closes the album. When some oh-so-familiar filler would usually be carelessly chucked, Fair to Midland take a risk and write something nobody expected and yet everybody will love. Hell, even the more traditional hard rock songs-Musical Chairs
and Whiskey and Ritalin
-sound new and refreshing.
So in short, just buy this album. There’s beautiful, big, impressive songs like Short-Haired Tornado
, The Greener Grass
and Golden Parachutes
, there’s the good old headbanging tracks like Whiskey and Ritalin
, Musical Chairs
, Amarillo Sleeps on my Pillow
, and Rikki Tikki Tavi
, there’s the sing-along anthems like Uh-Oh
and A Loophole in Limbo
, there’s the catchy little numbers like Bright Bulbs and Sharp Tools
and Coppertank Island
, and there’s the short instrumental breaks too. Yet every time, Fair to Midland takes the song type and completely makes it their own, changes it up with unusual influences, or just downright impresses you with their raw talents. As I said, Arrows & Anchors is fantastically weird, wonderfully wacky, and refreshingly original. You’ll be listening to this for a long time, trust me. It’s just a shame that the best album yet from, hands down, no contest, the best rock band of the decade, will pass by unnoticed for most people. I encourage you whole-heartedly to buy this beauty and support Fair to Midland-you won’t regret the decision.