The dewy harmonies and expansive guitar washes that permeate Fields’ debut full-length, Everything Last Winter, create a lustrous fantasy realm that sounds like a rocket-ship ride through a pastoral fairy tale. Prog-indie at its finest.
There’s an immense amount of sound to take in here. The members of the Birmingham, England-based band employ acoustic guitars and booming distorted bass, synths, vintage organs, strings and trumpets, but the variety of pieces never results in the excessive instrument fetish and kitchen-sink overkill that’s rampant in today’s rock scene. Credit producer Michael Beinhorn (Brian Eno, Hole, Soundgarden) for keeping all the pieces in place.
The album kicks off with “Song from the Village,” a tour-de-force that also opened the band’s 7 From the Fields EP, released last year via Vice. The production quality has been greatly stepped up — trading the rustic authenticity of the EP for the pristine, expansive sound of a big-budget studio — and the song has an extended instrumental outro, but all for the better. It’s a monster.
The band also shows a welcome divergence of style and sound while maintaining a consistent tone over the length of the album. “Feathers” features the breathy falsetto vocals of keyboardist Thorunn Antonia while progressing into a whitewash crescendo of massive guitar multitracks, wailing strings and a propulsive driving beat.
Crescendos are Fields’ stock in trade, and aside from drummer Henry Spenner’s repetitive style, they rarely feel excessive or indulgent. Elsewhere, “School Books” displays the eerily sweet harmonies between Antonia (who figures far more prominently here than on the EP) and guitarist Nick Peill. The quiet “You Made Me a Parasite” shows the band’s folkier side, an airy lullaby duet about romantic attachment that closes the album on a contemplative note.
Fields are the space rockers who can sing, a power-pop band from a dark side, shoegazers with a sense of focus and steely determination, folkies with fire and a massive electric bill. As we near the year’s halfway point, Everything Last Winter may be the most accomplished debut of 2007, and it will invariably be one of the best.