Field Report's debut captured a mood of wintry heartbreak set to lush acoustics and Chris Porterflield's distinctive Mid Western voice. Porterfield was in the mythical Wisconsin band DeYarmond Edison, the group famously known for featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and members of Megafaun. Porterfield looked for a while to be the one who would be labelled as the "underachiever", however good things come to those who wait and following the debut's quiet success its time for the follow up.
In many respects "Marigolden" is a very different sounding album. Part of this stems from a fuller production plus liberal use of synthesizer and drum machine. On first listens it does jar slightly as the previously hushed quiet acoustics that predominated on the debut are now filled with more pulses and intricate percussion. Thus opener "Decision Day" whilst lacking the sheer joy de vivre of "Fergus Falls" creeps up on the listener and reveals itself as a splendid slice of Americana. The exuberant "Home" could become one of those anthems frequently picked up by travellers longing for their spiritual motherland. It starts with bubbling synths and Porterfield's warm voice announces "Cold snapped like a coiled spring/You can feel the frost is coming on/We are marigolden - dropping orange and umber/Just barely holding on". Other songs are quieter not least the achingly sad piano ballad "Ambrosia". The title track is also a melancholy wonder although it is the sheer emotional punch of "Pale Rider" dealing with the tragic loss of a child that rips at your heart. The especially poignant lines “Now you’re cantering crooked and screaming at the wind/ And shooting off flare guns in memory of the kid/ His birthday was yesterday, he would have been six/ Oh my God, I am so sorry” will trouble the hardest heart. The sad closer "Enchainment" shows that "less is more" for Porter's sad songs and this ghostly acoustic lament is a fitting end to an excellent album.
This album is perhaps not quite as accessible on first listens as its predecessor, but stick with it, let is creep up on and suddenly you are humming tunes and wondering how they have invaded your consciousness like an army on manoeuvres. "Marigolden' is an album just waiting for the frost to grip and the first outbreak of snow. Porterfield may need to expand his sonic palette further in the future but for now this an intoxicating beauty of a record.
Review by Red on Black