Release Date: Oct 7, 2014
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Country-Rock, Roots Rock, Indie Folk
Seemingly an analogous gentleman, Field Report frontman Chris Porterfield scrambled his surname to arrive at his band’s moniker. Combining “marigold” and “golden” to derive the title of their latest album, Marigolden, it stands to reason Porterfield would adhere to Aristotle’s Poetics, bookending the band’s sophomore release, Marigolden, with the empowering “Decision Day” and frail “Enchantment”, both occurring at sunrise, approximating a 24-hour period. In no way a linear progression of story between the two, Porterfield does detail the day-to-day minutia of life (“Putting on old clothes in a new way”) and, most notably, his struggle with alcoholism.
When it comes to celebrating American roots in the arts, it’s always been rife with tough exterior and dark underbelly. Western film protagonists routinely exhibit just as much vice as virtue; the stars of classic country/western music were riddled with unreliable, unfaithful boozehounds; even the recent decades’ alt-country movement had retained that chemically-addled, devil may care attitude of their forebears. The point is, even as time and technology push us forward, further away from our origins, this art reflected and reminded us of the toil, the moral imperfection, the thirst for redemption housed within America’s soul.
Field Report shrunk from seven musicians to four within a year of their eponymous debut album's release, but while listening to their second full-length, 2014's Marigolden, much of the time it doesn't seem that there are even that many people on hand. Marigolden's sound is purposefully spare and uncluttered, and one imagines the group's leader and songwriter, Christopher Porterfield, could have worked up many of these tracks by his lonesome if he'd been so inclined (and "Ambrosia" is indeed just Porterfield and his piano). While Porterfield's bandmates certainly help invite some striking atmospheres (especially Ben Lester on pedal steel and guitar and multi-instrumentalist Shane Leonard), and Robbie Lackritz's production finds a satisfying middle ground between cool, electronic surfaces and the more organic tones of acoustic instruments and percussion, ultimately this is Porterfield's show, guided by the understated force of his vocals and the evocative intelligence of his lyrical imagery, and it's impressive work.
In the hands of Field Report’s Chris Porterfield, the word “home” starts shaping itself into something that signifies far more than just a dwelling or a town. Field Report’s second album, Marigolden, finds Porterfield writing about home with such yearning and fiery certainty that the word seems much bigger, weighted with nuances and multi-layered significance. In the context of the 10 emotionally vulnerable songs that make up the record, home stands in for everything that is right—or should be right—in the world.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. There's an echelon of modern folk legends building their legacies in the state of Wisconsin. A cold expanse of rough roads, farmland fields, and glacial hills, the only wonder is that this folk renaissance didn't happen sooner. Perhaps these artists beavered away, like forest critters in hibernation, incubating in their shelters during the cold of winters.
Before Chris Porterfield started making music as Field Report, a clever anagram of his surname, the Wisconsin-based songwriter was in DeYarmond Edison, the band famously known for featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and members of Megafaun. Due to the star power that group incubated, Porterfield has been cursed as being “that guy who was in a band with Bon Iver,” but as a songwriter, he’s shed those dogged associations. His debut album, 2012’s Field Report, recorded at Vernon’s April Base Studios in Wisconsin, was full of humble and spacious folk recordings that highlighted a burgeoning and distinctly Midwestern voice.
“Kiss me shy and I will love you like a lamprey,” Chris Porterfield sings on “Michelle”, a downcast song on Marigolden, the second release by his band Field Report. It’s an odd line, jutting out from the song at an obtuse angle and snagging your attention—at least until you remember that a lamprey is a parasitic fish that lives by burrowing into the skin of its host. It’s not especially romantic imagery; in fact, it’s possibly more visceral than Porterfield intended for such a gentle track.