Thursday, August 23, 2007

"...the best you can hope for is to go in your sleep."

the everybodyfields
Nothing is Okay

Here's your understatement of the week, courtesy of Sam Quinn of the everybodyfields: "We like sad songs..."

It's true; they do.

Take these lines from "Aeroplane," the opening tune on their latest release, Nothing is Okay: "I had a dream where I went to your room/and I cut off my hand and I let go of the blood."

Nothing is Okay is the everybodyfields' third collection of melancholic harmonies that underlie tragic lyrical themes. Not that it's a bad thing, of course. This is indeed beautiful music, even if it is downright sad.

The upshot is that this album showcases some of the finest in contemporary songwriting. When pure sadness is what you're trying to capture, you could do a whole lot worse than having Quinn and Jill Andrews write and arrange it.

Nothing is Okay exhibits the typical production finish one might expect on the third album from a band whose career is on a decidedly upward trajectory. It seems the everybodyfields have upgraded about everything lately: tour length, concert venues, record label, and on this latest release, production quality.

Most of this album was recorded in a top-notch Nashville studio, which is a departure since some previous offerings were laid down in the rusticity of a rural East Tennessee barn. Those simpler recordings were effective in their rawness, but with Nothing is Okay the everybodyfields have refused to trade quality for the bells and whistles of high-end production.

In fact, the more complex arrangements only further the effectiveness of the band's songs. From top to bottom, the twelve songs on Nothing is Okay showcase a variety of production choices. Some tracks are anchored with well-placed, minimalist percussion while some swing along only on strings. Some have long, drowsy fiddle refrains, while others punch the listener with hard-hitting crescendos, topped-off with the slashing of Megan McCormik's distorted
country guitar.

This is an album that isn't afraid to take its time in setting the proper mood, even if it does wander just a bit. Many tracks feature long intros with slowly-layered instrumentation that gradually prepare the listener for lyrical imagery and vocal deliveries that evoke emotion as well as anything the Americana genre is offering these days. These songs are thick with gut-wrenching, southern country music that begs to be turned up in order to properly devestate the listener. And it seems obvious that devestation is the goal. The everybodyfields have staked their claim in the newest class of alt-country acts with a singular blend of frailty and force, that - with sometimes uncomfortable honesty - reduces listeners to a truly satisfying melancholy.

The fact that the inevitable comparisons to Gillian Welch have already come from the music press is evidence that Nothing is Okay is one of the finest releases of the year. That's pretty good company - and inadequate.

In the everybodyfields grandest effort to date, Quinn and Andrews have put forth a five-star collection that cements the band's status as not merely a talented country duo, but a culturally-significant event. This is more than an album of pretty music or sad tunes; there is a deft and deliberate artistry in these songs that comes along with only generational frequency.


CharlesTheKungFuMaster said...

Thanks for the review. I am eagerly waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail.

Mike said...

Great album! The song Lonely Anywhere is the best sad song I've ever heard.

Ellamama said...

His warbly voice is just perfect. Looking forward to seeing them at Rhythm and Roots next month.

CharlesTheKungFuMaster said...

Great album. In case you didn't know, there is a hidden track after the last song.