REVIEW: FIELD GUIDES – BOO, FOREVER (2014)
On their debut album, Boo, Forever, Brooklyn-based Field Guides deliver a collection of songs that merge literary inspirations with charming pop likeability. The album was a decade in the making for Field Guides creator, Benedict Kupstas, and his revolving jam of contributing musicians. With a span of characters over a timetable of that length, one would have to believe the album spent its fair share of time on the back burner of priorities. However, 10 years be damned, Boo, Forever is an admirable debut and Kupstas incorporates a talented bunch to record the final wrap.
Your initial thoughts on Boo, Forever will both oddly and naturally depend on which song you hear first. If you play it from the top with lead track “A Song After Grace” you will immediately be immersed in the bird chirps of an actual field recording Kupstas did himself, thus giving the Field Guides band name a very literal presence (altogether Kuptas incorporated natural recordings from landscapes in New York, Montana, Pennsylvania and, why not, South Korea). The opening recording is delicate, peaceful and works as a lead to what becomes an epic eight-minute soundscape jam. It really sets the mood for Boo, Forever to be deep and atmospheric and completely overtaken by the beauty of the canyons.
Yet, if your first taste of Field Guides was the Boo, Forever lead single “Lisa Loeb Probably Never Pierced Her Ears,” there’s a very different takeaway. You can fittingly score a skydiving video with “A Song After Grace” but, on the other hand, “Lisa Loeb” is more immediate, engaging, surf-tinted and compact (clocked at just under two minutes). The title itself is a curious one. Lisa Loeb is a pop singer-songwriter who may still be best known for her 1994 breakout hit “Stay (I Missed You),” or possibly her designer frames. On an album in which the title is taken from a Richard Brautigan poem and a song is named after contemporary fiction writer Lorrie Moore, it’s hard to believe Field Guides use the Loeb reference out of sincere inspiration or because of a serious admiration. Yet, if because of the song title, the single gets an extra click or two by striking the nostalgic nerve of a 31-year-old “Reality Bites” aficionado, who can blame them?
Outside of track lengths, field recordings and Lisa Loeb Vs. The Literary World, Boo, Forever triumphs behind two wonderfully standout tracks. “Jon Says” builds off of a lively and glistening melody. The tune features a beautifully sparse and enchanting collision of vocals from Madeline Caldwell and Alena Spanger. “John Says” incorporates Field Guides’ towering and grand sound potential, but it doesn’t spin off the earth, it doesn’t lose focus. The attentiveness remains, and the track is better for it, sounding impressively complete.
Album closer “Peggy Asked A Question & The Answer Is ‘Yes’ & ‘Let’s Keep Dancing’” nails the sparring lovers duet at a time when there really can’t be enough of these. Field Guides build off of the essential country-folk platform and keep the track delicate, but powerful, with lyrics that balance effortlessly between imaginative sparks and relatable poignancy: “I saw your hair burn bright with flames/ You told me you’re tired of the game.”
With Boo, Forever, Field Guides strive for the comprehensiveness of a complete album, start to finish. It’s a familiar and admirable goal for most musicians even in the current digital age. However, the reality is, sometimes you get your limited edition color vinyl spinning in the dining room of a Bushwick bourbon tasting. Other times, your lead single tracks on a “Mondays Suck” playlist bridging “Habits (Stay High)” and “Take Me To Church.” There is a difference there, but when you’re a new band behind a debut album, it shouldn’t really matter.
Field Guides deliver an intriguing first album with a handful of well-crafted songs. It’s not quite a decade-long magnum opus, but Boo, Forever will be heard and tracks will be played, maybe even, and not surprisingly, on repeat.