Field Manual

It must be a daunting task to embark on a journey to break oneself out from something so concrete and adored into something new, something slightly uncomfortable. And with all that that transpired after the recording of Field Manual, namely the hard drive being confiscated at the border on its trip back into the States, becomes only a minor setback, but you can't help but read into it like an omen; a sign that trouble may lie ahead. As the saying goes, though, 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'. Produced by Warne Livesay (Midnight Oil, The The, Jesus Jones) the album is lush with all of the familiar guitar tones and keyboard embellishments that you have come to know throughout Chris' career as guitarist and producer for Death Cab for Cutie and producer-in-demand for bands like The Decemberists and Hot Hot Heat.

The album starts off with "Two-Fifty," a sweet song sung like Imogen Heap that wraps you up in a warm blanket and snuggles you into a happy trance only to be rudely shaken awake by the opening drum fill of "The Score," which blends Matthew Sweet's California sunshine with Dave Grohl-esque drums. From there the songs veer in and out of the same lane for most of the record. The bubblegum enriched vocal melodies of "Geometry &c." sound like anything out of Jim Adkin's bag of tricks while "Everyone Needs a Home" fits well with what Chris is used to playing day in and day out with Death Cab. Some of the songs here do stand out powered by his whispy and layered vocal melodies and harmonies. "Our Plans, Collapsing" has the controlled heartache of the Weakerthans and the immediacy and falsetto of the Pernice Brothers especially with the key change and tempo swing that arrives at a splendid refrain. "Archer V. Light" with its fluid bass line and stiff bombastic drums finally shows the confidence sometimes lacking in other songs while "It's Unsustainable," again, reads like a Death Cab how-to, but glistens with a delicate approach and build.

Chris Walla

Field Manual