Fair to Midland

Arrows and Anchors

01. Heavens to Murgatroyd
02. Whiskey & Ritalin
03. Musical Chairs
04. Uh-Oh
05. Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow
06. A Loophole in Limbo
07. Typhoid Mary Sends Her Best
08. Short-Haired Tornado
09. The Upset at Bailey Bridge
10. Rikki Tikki Tavi
11. Golden Parachutes
12. Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools
13. Coppertank Island
14. Three Foolproof Ways To Buy the Farm
15. The Greener Grass

[07/12/11]
[eOne Music]

Hard and Alt Rock acts are tough calls to make when the primary flavor your tastebuds are accustomed to is metal and the like. However, the best rock bands seem to be ones rooted in prog, which we indulge in greatly ’round these parts — like Karnivool, who broke out last year with their amazing sophomore release Sound Awake, and Fair To Midland, who are poised to release their fourth album Arrows & Anchors. My experience with these Texans is ashamedly limited. Their hit “Dance of the Manatee” back in 2007 was pretty sweet, I thought, but my tastes weren’t aligned properly at that point in time to warrant a spin of the whole album Fables from a Mayfly until after I came across Arrows & Anchors. Even in my short-term knowledge of the band and their sound, it’s clear that Fair to Midland are the American counterpart to Australia’s Karnivool.

Alright, so the two bands don’t exactly sound too similar, but they certainly bark up the same tree, albeit from different angles. Fair to Midland’s folky southern attitude, progressive approach, and a slight metal influence makes for a unique experience from their contemporaries in bands like Dredg, Dead Letter Circus, and Karnivool. There’s a charm about the band and Arrows & Anchors that is both fun and tasteful in their intellectual musical approach that isn’t as pretentious as it is being dedicated and caring for their craft.

Standout track and leading single “Musical Chairs” is the biggest earworm of the year thus far, which sports a huge chorus that sticks long after you’ve since heard it. I’ve often roamed around my house singing the lines ‘It makes you wonder…’ under my breath. While the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to the high bar that was set up by its single, the band can write some definite top-notch alt rock with broad appeal from both the metalhead and the country fan, something that really takes me back to Faith No More‘s Angel Dust in its versatility; vocalist Darroh Sudderth’s Texan accent and banjo skills are often given spotlight on songs such as “Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow” and “A Loophole in Limbo.” His sludgy growls are a rarity, but they accompany big riffs on the awkward and spastic (in a good way) “Rikki Tikki Tavi” and the aforementioned “Musical Chairs,” to a lesser extent.

Unfortunately, the band can linger on mid-tempo songs that may run together on initial listens. Fair to Midland certainly have a signature sound despite having the guts to swing around with different keyboard textures and riffs, but the soft and floaty moments are sometimes hard to distinguish from each other. The band could most definitely benefit with greater variance. The album’s pacing is spot on though, with musical interludes breaking up the full “real” songs, which helps to avoid monotony.

Arrows & Anchors is definitely a grower, with songs unraveling a bit each more per listen. The pay off for the patience is great; as far as rock goes, Fair To Midland are doing it right with a forward thinking attitude and the hooks to keep listeners coming back. If you’ve never gotten into Fair to Midland before, Arrows & Anchors is your opportunity to join the fun.

Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors gets…

4/5

– JR

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