Fair to Midland – Arrows and Anchors: Review
On July 12, Fair to Midland released their latest album entitled Arrows and Anchors. The alternative metal force comes strong with this release, as quality is at a triumphant high. This is my first encounter with the band and, despite my nitpicking, I am quite impressed.
The Music (rating: B+)
- Heavens to Murgatroyd
- Whiskey & Ritalin
- Musical Chairs
- Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow
- A Loophole in Limbo
- Typhoid Mary Sends Her Best
- Short-Haired Tornado
- The Upset at Bailey Bridge
- Rikki Rikki Tavi
- Golden Parachutes
- Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools
- Coppertank Island
- Three Foolproof Ways to Buy the Farm
- The Greener Grass
Arrows and Anchors is an alternative metal album with elements of avant-garde and progressive incorporated into their sound. It is not to the extent that drastically shifts the musical style away from the alternative metal standing, but rather serves as an additive to help individualize the overall sound. The typical metal instruments are the primary ones, but there is also a healthy dose of synthesizers and strings and several folk instruments (like banjo among many of which I am unable to name). So basically, the alternative metal sound is elevated to a grandeur surpassing that which is generally heard in the genre.
Nonetheless, Arrows and Anchors holds true to many elements of alternative metal which, to a small extent, keep it in the common room. Most of the tracks rely heavily on feel and catchiness as opposed to any “deeper” musical substance. This is not meant in a pejorative sense, but merely to highlight the risk that is involved. With such an approach, the music can be gripping and relatable or of annoying blunder (or somewhere between the two). With Arrows and Anchors, it is never to the point of the latter, but the hit percentage is not nearly 100%. Still, there are sections within pieces that grasp with their intrigue, such as “Coppertank Island” and “Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow”. I guess it can be said that there is just too much “good” and not enough “great”. But let’s reiterate that there is a lot of good with this release.
The general songwriting is where most of the appreciation for Arrows and Anchors is derived from. It is frequently catchy but not annoying, as stated earlier, and warrants multiple listens – multiple, but perhaps not many. The instrumental balancing is extremely well done for the most part. There is a small issue with the guitar being unnecessarily overpowering towards the vocals, which are wrongfully compromised to a small extent. Thankfully, they are not drowned, but there is a minor muffling effect. But mainly, the instruments remain loyal to the big picture. All instruments contribute appropriately and punctually, like the bass in “Musical Chairs”. Again, this is a result of the natural affinity which is apparent in the band as seen in this record.
Arrows and Anchors is a very good release by the Fair to Midland. The songs can be overly generic at times though. This could possibly due to the overall alternative metal sound, but I sincerely doubt it. It seems more attributable to the underlying musical approach, which is most evident with the centralized vocal lines and simpler guitar riffs. However, the layering helps conceal its “mainstream” elements, pushing the alternative metal sound to regions often unfound by the genres peers. Aside from the nitpicking here and there, Arrows and Anchors is a solid, enjoyable listen.
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