Fair to Midland – “The Greener Grass”
As a rather obvious indie/folk aficionado, I probably don’t have nearly enough progressive rock on this list – and in a decade where there has been some damn good examples. Fair to Midland is a band that caught my ear in 2011 – their album, Arrows and Anchors, serving as one of the best records to kick off the new decade at that time. As the years have passed by and blurred into one another, I’ve more or less forgotten about Fair to Midland – a band that dissolved out of a lack of funds of all things. That’s why reflective projects such as this Top 100 Songs feature are so important to me on a personal level, because it gives me a chance to re-discover albums that impressed me at the time of their release, but fell by the wayside as the music industry saw an uptick in streaming, and access to music became so limitless that gems such as Arrows and Anchors became possible to forget.
When I re-played this album yesterday, some of my favorite hits immediately stood out again. The roaring energy of “Whiskey & Ritalin”, the unforgettable chorus of “Musical Chairs”, the stirring underlying urgency of “Uh-Oh”, the zaniness of “Rikki Tikki Tavi”, the lush atmosphere of “Golden Parachutes” — it was all as I remembered it, maybe even slightly better (I bumped this remarkably consistent album from a 4.0 to a 4.5, and time will tell if it goes higher). What I didn’t remember for whatever reason, and what caught me totally offguard, was the 11 minute monument of a closer, “The Greener Grass.” How this escaped me back in ’11 I have no idea, but what I’m sure of now is that it easily goes toe-to-toe with the classic tunes I name-checked earlier in this paragraph.
Maybe I’m being hasty in crowning this as a song of the decade – after all, it’s fresh to me as of a day ago, and over the course of several more months and years I might decide that it should have been “Uh-Oh” or “Musical Chairs” to garner this spot. But I’m so swept up in the magnificence of this track that the euphoria and hype is impossible to deny. The long, winding progressive elements are better executed here than anywhere else on Arrows and Anchors, featuring both quiet and loud dynamics alongside Sudderth’s soaring choruses and jaw-dropping vocal range. In terms of progressive rock in the last 10 years, I’m not sure I’ve heard anything quite as enjoyable as this.