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Arrows & Anchors

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Audio CD, July 12, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Anyone who thinks the phrase it's all been done before carries real weight clearly has yet to encounter Fair To Midland. Dark, heavy, moving, cryptic, progressive art-rock collides with flourishes of old-school country, Americana and Delta Blues in their sound. These Lonestar boys genre-defying and boundary obliterating ocean of sound righteously upends the old phrase fair to middling from which their Texas-ified moniker was drawn.

Arrows and Anchors, the five-piece band's first album in partnership with eOne Music, is meaner, sadder and altogether more desperate of an affair than its predecessors. It's a very bitter album, offers vocalist Darroh Sudderth. The last album had some light at the end of the tunnel in some of the subject matter. This one doesn't have that quite so much.

This particularly invigorating yet undeniably gut-wrenching collection of songs is the product of a string of years of career strife since the group last poked their head into magazines and record shops. Arrows and Anchors follows a change in record label, a change in management and one maybe two, changes in booking agent. All of that change and upheaval definitely played a role in the creative process; artistic lemonade from business lemons.

There has never been a lack of faith from the diehard admirers who have steadily adopted the band as their own in growing numbers since Fair To Midland's initial pair of self-released albums, The Carbon Copy Silver Lining (2001) and inter.funda.stifle (2004). Both were explorations into the furthest reaches of the musical psyche that earned them praise from critics, fans and fellow musicians. Fair To Midland are a true band's band.

So much so, in fact, that eclectic musical connoisseur and multiplatinum recording artist Serj Tankian, best known as the frontman for System Of A Down, signed them to his Serjikal Strike imprint, which released The Drawn and Quartered EP (2006) and the band's third full-length album, Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True (2007).

A killer live show and intensive roadwork as a headliner, at prestigious festivals such as Coachella, Download, Rock AM Ring and Rock IM Ring and together with bands like Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Flyleaf and Dir en Grey has brought the band's skillful and adept approach to art rock infused prog-metal to international attention.

There are a few of their by now trademarked tongue-in-cheek dalliances to be sure but for the most part Arrows and Anchors is Fair To Midland's most cynical offering. By the same turn, it's a performance album with a laser-like focus on the raw passion and intensity. In an age of overly processed heavy music, the band partnered with producer Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Coheed and Cambria, The Melvins) who sequestered them into his self-appointed House of Compression in Pasadena, California and wrenched out top-tier performances.

The recording captures an authenticity and a sincerity that's lacking in most modern records. We always want to work with someone who is interested and enthusiastic to work with us, Sudderth explains. Because at the end of the day they're going to spend that much more time wanting to make the record their own, as well. We didn't want to worry about everything being immaculate, pristine and polished. This is absolutely a performance-driven record.

Arrows and Anchors is also a testament to Fair To Midland's personal chemistry and unique collaborative perspective.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 12, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Entertainment One Music
  • ASIN: B0052EV9WM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,035 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By JuevoSplash on July 12, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Fair to Midland is a band that is difficult to classify or simply place into any particular genre. Their last album Fables from a Mayfly: WITYTTIT was a masterwork and their two albums prior were excellent, as well. As a result, it is not surprising to me whatsoever that they've brought this amazing gem to their fans. It's been a long wait, but worth it and I might even say that this album is on par with or even exceeds the excellence of their last album in many ways.

Arrows and Anchors is a step forward for the band in many ways. Even with all their trials and tribulations, they've managed to create something so artistic that is makes everything else that any other musician creates seem less complete and attractive in comparision. Spanning multiple genres and slightly more angry this time around, this album is immense and intense.

Ranging from the speedy and mind-blowing "Whiskey and Ritalin" to the beautiful "The Greener Grass", every song could be a hit and the best part is that even though it sounds good, it's lyrically beautiful and deep if you take the time to pay attention. This was true with Fables, as well.

Stand out tracks include...all of them. Favorites of mine include Musical Chairs, Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow, Coppertank Island, Bright Bulbs, and The Greener Grass.

If you're new to Fair to Midland, then you won't be disappointed with this buy. If you're fan, then you probably have it pre-ordered or own it already.

Buy this album, so that good music will continue to be made in this world.

p.s. Go to one of their live shows if you ever have the chance. You won't be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brett on July 14, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I typically refrain from reviewing music so soon after its release, as I have a nasty habit of forming an initial opinion that changes markedly as the months and years pass. With this disc, however, there's simply no doubt in my mind that my final rating will be exactly what you see above.

Since discovering FTM around the time they released their previous masterpiece, FABLES FROM A MAYFLY (2007), they've been near or at the top of my list of favorite active rock groups. My main musical interests lie in the realm of progressive alt-rock in the vein of Tool, APC, dredg, Porcupine Tree, et. al., and I've always said that FTM take that genre (or blend of genres, if you prefer) and make it as accessible and melodic as humanly possible. With ARROWS & ANCHORS, that statement rings true as ever.

If you happen to have heard the debut single, "Musical Chairs," you might be surprised to find that it's likely the weakest and least interesting full-length track on the album. Largely a retread of ground already covered on FABLES, it really pales in comparison to more melodic and harder-rocking escapades like opener "Whiskey & Ritalin," the sinister and bipolar "Uh-Oh" and "Rikki Tikki Tavi," folk-rock twang of "Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow," or the heavily-electronic "Short-Haired Tornado." In my opinion, these songs effortlessly push beyond the comfort zone of the band's previous work -- which, if it was weak in any way, was so because of its slight lack of diversity.

Honestly, there's not a skip-worthy track to be had, as has been the case with every FTM release since INTER.FUNDA.STIFLE (2004).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Preacher_Child on August 16, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Simply said as easily as I can... If you liked Fables from a Mayfly, you will LIKE this album. If you like Fair to Midland you will LOVE this album. If you are a musician who picks apart music to the very core hoping to satisfy some psychological fixation only found in music that takes actual talent to play, compose, perform... All of the above... Then this album will make you crave more after Arrows and Anchors makes sweet love to your ears. While not as complex as other prog bands like Dream Theater or Suspyre, Fair to Midland accomplishes what only happens once every great while... Which is making an album that not only builds upon the musical wonder that came from the last, but completely makes an effortless leap to the next metaphorical mountain over (and it's higher too). Arrows is a rare album. Every, and I mean EVERY track is so vastly different from the next, yet it retains the welcome familiarity we all craved from their last album. The other wonderful thing about this album is how obviously crazy these songs will be live.

Arrows is quite honestly, the biggest surprise of my 2011. I wasn't ready for it. It blew me away, and the simple fact that this band can come out again and again and again swinging this hard for their spot in the music world truly scares me thinking about what to expect from them next! But this album. You won't regret it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Miller on July 12, 2011
Format: Audio CD
The new effort from Fair to Midland - 4 years we've waited - is a well-realized and superbly-executed effort.

As anyone who picked them up from "Fables of the Mayfly..." knows, FTM works in all sorts of different musical influences: the root being something akin to bluegrassy-metal. In this go-around, the result is a sonically ambitious record that dials back the production value for what the band admits is a more raw sound, leaving in minor missteps to make this about performance and not fine tuning to the nth degree.

What you will find on "Anchors and Arrows" is FTM going heavier at times, more melodic at times, yet always willing to push their own envelope to introduce surprises with each new listen.

It's hard to list only a handful of stand-out songs...especially after only 3-4 listens. But, I find these to be the most riveting: Whiskey and Ritalin; Uh-Oh; Rikki-Tikki-Tavi; Golden Parachutes; Small Haired Tornado; The Greener Grass.

Also, if you like what you hear see them live. I saw them a couple of years ago when they opened for Serj Tankian - they are a frenetic and maniacal band that cares about their music, their fans and their performance.
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