To be in the band Justin Vernon was in before Bon Iver would be the biggest of bummers. But if you’re Christopher Porterfield, you don’t let the bummer get the best of you – at least not for too terribly long. Instead, you eventually realize that music is more than just a hobby, record a ten-track album in Vernon’s studio, and say great things of the now-famous Wisconsinite like, “He made me think that someone not living in a major city, who writes stuff that he believes in about stuff that he went through, that people want to hear that.” As it turns out, the “stuff” that Porterfield speaks of makes for a collection of songs so lyrically beautiful, you’ll feel like you just put down an incredibly written anthology of short stories by the time the record concludes, sighing loud; this record can wrench the soul.
Set to delicately plucked guitars and electrifying pianos that create a cinematic chill, Field Report tells both Porterfield’s stories and the stories of those he observes in such a way that they become whatever the listener wants, each manifesting new meaning based on your life’s roadmap. Take album opener “Fergus Falls”, on which he sings, “I was concealing his kid under his crewneck stateschool sweatshirt while he grinned off in the distance behind prescription shades that were blocking out the clouded-out sun,” about a pregnant girl he saw at a festival who was with a guy who “looked like an asshole.”
He sings of loneliness on “Incommunicado” (“I’ve been incommunicado for going on three days/ And the silence sings staccato around my ears and face”), and of Springsteen-esque small-town life on “In the Year of the Get You Alone” (“You’ve been sleeping with directors’ daughters and taking drugs I’ve never tried/ I drink at home most days and sometimes sleep with my wife”). This isn’t Born in the U.S.A. Bruce. It’s Nebraska Bruce. “Circle Drive” drips with intimacy as Porterfield stops singing to breathe out, “We’re doing fine” before belting, “But I am still your man/ Some days we do the best we can.”
The folky music is spacious yet sonic, and the 31-year-old musician has the pipes for such a background. The album is retrospective and relatable, and it proves that Vernon isn’t the only Wisconsin resident to poetically wow us.
Essential Tracks: “Fergus Falls”, “Circle Drive”