Field Mouse's "Episodic"
By Allyson Bills
2016 may be an Olympic year, but it hasn’t been that way music-wise with numerous mediocre albums being released, at least for me. So reviewing Episodic, the latest album from Philadelphia/Brooklyn’s Field Mouse, was nothing short of a Godsend (for the most part). Produced by Hop Along’s Joe Reinhart, Episodic marks the first album that Field Mouse performs as a five-piece instead of a duo, with vocalist-guitarist Rachel Browne, guitarist Andrew Futral, bassist Saysha Heinzman, drummer Tim McCoy, and guitarist and synthesizer player Zoe Browne.
Episodic begins with the gritty “The Mirror,” which sounds like a big “fuck you” to the world with Browne signing, “You want to see ego // I’ve held it up enough.” It’s a punkish tune with heavy shades of their band friends Speedy Ortiz. At 2:27 minutes long, “The Mirror” is the shortest song off Episodic, but packs enough punch to get this album off to a rousing start. One of my favorite tracks off Episodic comes from “Half-Life,” which has an obvious Veruca Salt influence with the “big sound” and soothing but authoritative vocals. Listening to “Half-Life” gave me new life in the daily grind of the work week with the dope bass lines throughout the track and a chilling lo-fi chorus. It was a song that I definitely didn’t want to end; however, as they say, “all good things must come to an end.”
The ending of “Half-Life” led me to the unfortunate mess that is “Accessory.” If there is a weak link off Episodic, this is it. It’s a mid-tempo number that with no movement music-wise whatsoever that bored me. Also, hearing the corny line of “I used to come here by myself // Will you be my accessory” over and over again didn’t help matters. “The Order of Things” has a similar vibe to that of “Accessory,” but with more of an indie rock feel. It’s also one of my least favorite tracks off Episodic for the same reasons as “Accessory.” The line of “I’m tired and I want to take up space” sums up how I feel about “The Order of Things”; it’s merely a filler track in order to have ten tracks on this album.
Luckily, I found a diamond in the rough with “A Widow with a Terrible Secret.” This track wins the Olympic Gold Medal for the album because it’s so damn perfect with hooks galore and crunchy riffs, as well as the “big sound” is what Field Mouse excels at, which I wished they took advantage of this aspect throughout Episodic. In “Beacon,” Field Mouse gives a slight nod to the 80s, which sounds like a softer version of Blondie. With that being said, the vocals on “Beacon” sounded very rushed; it’s like Field Mouse wanted to have this track on the album so much that they failed to develop the song to its full potential.
“Over and Out” is definitely the dark horse of the album. In the first few listens, I didn’t initially like the song, but after the third listen it has grown on me. Like a human personality, there are hidden layers of “Over and Out” with its catchy chorus and sick guitar solo at the end. It sounds like Metric if they were a rock band. Speaking of Speedy Ortiz, Sadie Dupris lends her harmonies to “Do You Believe Me Now?” Though the song sounds very rushed at times, Dupris’ vocals compliments Browne’s to a tee, which pretty much saves the song from being one of the duds off Episodic.
The other song that grew on me was “Never Would Have Known.” It’s one of the chiller tracks off the album, but it contains enough variety to pique my interest without coming across as too stagnant. I’m not the biggest fan of synthesizers, but it works well on “Never Would Have Known” to give the song extra depth. The album ends on a powerful note with “Out of Context.” This is track is more or less an ode to the band’s former lo-fi sounds with fuzzy riffs. In addition to this awesomeness, Field Mouse brings the star power with Waxahatchee’s Allison Crutchfield and Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Joseph D’Agostino to guest on harmonies. Too bad I had to listen to some duds on Episodic in order to find this gem. As Browne repeats “It hurts,” it is exemplary of the boring moments off Episodic. Luckily, “Out of Context” doesn’t fall into that category.
If there was an Olympic medal to be awarded to Field Mouse for their effort in creating Episodic, it would be a bronze medal. It’s obvious there is a ton of growing pains throughout the album; however, there is a lot of potential in the future of the band as a five-piece.