Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Country-Rock, Roots Rock, Indie Folk
The third band to come out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s DeYarmond Edison after Bon Iver and Megafaun, Field Report is an anagram of its creator Chris Porterfield, a seemingly insignificant piece of information that actually captures the band’s essence perfectly. Simultaneously personal and mysterious, specific and ambiguous, Field Report’s self-titled debut album is a collection of 10 songs that consist of folk precision and just enough breathing room to amaze. The album captivates from the very beginning with the stunning Fergus Falls, an exemplary balance between the personal and the relatable and the general and the specific.
Field Report has been five long years in the making. And the effort that Chris Porterfield, the multi-instrumentalist and mastermind behind new indie-folk group, exerted during the past half-decade is most certainly apparent on his self-titled debut. Porterfield, whose name is actually an anagram of the band’s, has found the sweet spot between masterful attention to details and broad understanding of the breadth of a record.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin's DeYarmond Edison was kind of a 21st century free folk Americana version of Buffalo Springfield, the band that launched the separate careers of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Richie Furay, and thus gave us Crazy Horse, Poco, CSN and CSNY, and other configurations. DeYarmond Edison gave us Justin Vernon, best known by his new moniker Bon Iver, Megafaun (Phil Cook, Brad Cook, and Joe Westerlund), and now, Chris Porterfield, who may well turn out to be the best songwriter to come out of DeYarmond Edison. Porterfield's songs, influenced by Nebraska and Tunnel of Love-era Bruce Springsteen, Blood on the Tracks-era Bob Dylan, the lyrically perfect and exact songs of Paul Simon, and the mock-political and surreal epics of Neil Young, are hauntingly detailed narratives sung with the heart, soul, and haunting personal passion of a stronger-voiced Leonard Cohen, and the best of them, like the opener here, "Fergus Falls," reveal themselves in muted, hushed, and quietly unfolding arrangements that let Porterfield carry the narrative, which itself builds and unfolds in richly nuanced detail.
It’s been a long, bumpy journey for Chris Porterfield. Watching his former bandmates in DeYarmond Edison attain success with Bon Iver and Megafaun couldn’t have been easy for him, yet he’s managed to release one of the better albums of the year as Field Report. Having written and performed some of the songs as Conrad Plymouth, Porterfield recorded the album late last year at Justin Vernon’s studio in Wisconsin, many of the songs on this album channel the personal struggles that Porterfield has gone through since his original outfit broke up.
There's a scene in the film Searching for Sugar Man in which a reporter asks Rodriguez, a songwriter claimed as the "lost Bob Dylan," whether he resents missing out on royalties as a "bigger than Elvis" superstar in South Africa while his American debut was overshadowed by generation-defining records like After the Gold Rush and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Sunglasses firmly in place above his signature unflappable grin, Rodriguez says, "It's the music industry. There are no guarantees." He's right, and eventually he gets his reparations with stretch limos, white carpets, and yearly sold-out shows in Cape Town.
To be in the band Justin Vernon was in before Bon Iver would be the biggest of bummers. But if you’re Christopher Porterfield, you don’t let the bummer get the best of you – at least not for too terribly long. Instead, you eventually realize that music is more than just a hobby, record a ten-track album in Vernon’s studio, and say great things of the now-famous Wisconsinite like, “He made me think that someone not living in a major city, who writes stuff that he believes in about stuff that he went through, that people want to hear that.