Album Reviews: Arrows and Anchors

Get psyched for another album review. This one’s from Murfie staffer Evan.

~ Still riding an adrenaline high from catching the explosive Texan rockers’ Fair to Midland in concert for a fourth time – now almost fully recovered from a sore neck and bruised skull – I can’t help but find the need to share their strange and masterful rendition of progressive rock. Already making way on their second round of touring since the summer release of the impeccable Arrows & Anchors, Fair to Midland make sure to bring the well-deserved habit of repeated album plays to life and in your face.

Fair to Midland is a band taking risks among a sea of imitators and washed-up acts hanging by a thread. A sentiment well captured in “Whiskey & Ritalin,” singer and lyricist Darroh Sudderth invites the listener to embrace their soundscape and throw caution to the wind in crooning, “Welcome to the balancing act.” Following a very Southern feeling organ and sermon soundbite prelude, Cliff Campbell’s crunchy guitar riffage comes crashing in, juxtaposed with Darroh’s melodious vocals to create a thoroughly satisfying combo.

Probably the most appropriate choice for the first single off the album, “Musical Chairs” demonstrates the breadth of Fair to Midland’s stylistics in an irresistibly catchy, bass driven track. With lines like “It makes you wonder / if shooting for stars is like darts in the dark. / It makes you wonder if the beaten path / is the promised land,” this track is the perfect example of Darroh’s cryptic and contemplative lyrical style, making it a great introduction for new listeners. The rest of the album builds off this single, throwing in elements of the unexpected, like the twangy banjos of the hard-hitting “Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow.”

While every song is more than suitable for a live performance, a few, such as “Uh-Oh” and “Rikki Tikki Tavi,” take center stage as being designed specifically to make audiences go wild. I’ll admit I’ve unconsciously thrashed about just listening to these beasts with my earbuds in.

Without question, my favorite track from Arrows & Anchors is “Coppertank Island.” Fast-paced and spiteful, Darroh’s cryptic lyricisms are carried through by Matt Langley’s skillful keyboarding, one of Fair to Midland’s strongest and most impressive elements. It’s difficult not to wail along with the chorus, “If the right built the anchor / and the wrong have set sail / I’m a whale, I’m a whale / I’m a whale.”

Finishing off with a monster of a track, clocking in at over ten minutes, Fair to Midland showcase their compositional strength with “The Greener Grass,” one of their most melodic and proggy tracks yet. Easily appreciable in every aspect, the band ensures that the album is well-rounded and leaves the listener with a good taste and the desire to hit play again.

Don’t be a stick in the mud. Liberate your stagnant collection with the innovative stylings of the solid and reliable Fair to Midland. Arrows & Anchors is sure to intrigue and rightfully earns my acknowledgement as being one of the best releases of 2011.
     – Evan Benner

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