Review: With self-titled debut, Field Report forges an identity

Meghan Frick

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

After working with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon in the band DeYarmond Edison, Chris Porterfield started Field Report and created a surprisingly enjoyable self-titled debut album.

In Field Report, an anagram of the frontman’s last name, Porterfield taps into Vernon’s sound, which makes sense considering the past collaborations. But his voice sounds like a finer-tuned Bob Dylan and the guitar strumming’s like old Iron & Wine.

Some songs encompass all three artists’ sounds, some a few. Some have no musical resemblance at all.

In the opening track, “Fergus Falls,” there is the typical indie, hipster-sensitive-guy guitar picking. But it introduces Porterfield’s fine-tuned Bob Dylan voice right off the bat, not some airy, falsetto voice that would throw the band back into the stereotype just mentioned.

“Taking Alcatraz” sounds very close to Bon Iver’s “Holocene,” at least where Porterfield really drags out the notes. But it quickly falls into something different, still carrying that reliable guitar picking and piano chords and maintaining the song’s rhythmic flow.

Other songs display a little more of a Top 40 sound.

“The Year of the Get You Alone” plays like the cutaway for a sappy romantic comedy, right at the part when the guy and girl are separated or going through a rough patch and really need to think things out.

But it’s not too depressing. There’s enough percussion to keep the listener interested while still letting them know it’s not the happiest song on earth.

One key thing Porterfield and Field Report need to work on: they don’t have a unique sound. It isn’t like listening to a band that did covers its entire career before deciding, “What the hell, let’s do our own stuff.” But it doesn’t take rocket science to know that if someone likes Field Report, they’ll probably like Death Cab, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine and so forth.

Here, the Wisconsinites have shown they can make an impression. It’s worth sticking around for whatever follows.

“Field Report” is available Tuesday on iTunes, Amazon and in stores.

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Story: MICHAEL BRAGG, Senior A&E Reporter