introduction by sammy maine
photograph by katie krulock
Field Mouse released their last album during a catalyst of sorts. A catalyst that proved to be the beginning of a world turned upside down; one that ditched empathy for anger, one that banished inclusivity, one that became more aggressive every day.
While the band never officially said they were on a break, following Trump’s election the four-piece understandably began to focus on their relationships – with themselves and their loved ones – back home. Rachel got a new job, applied to grad school and got engaged, spending almost two years outside of music entirely. The global doom quickly seeped its way into Rachel’s creativity and she didn’t write anything at all. She felt hopeless. She didn’t know what place art had in a world that seemed so violent.
Thankfully, there was a turning point. Not a fireworks kind of turning point, just a gentle cascade back into writing songs. Sifting through her old poems, Rachel took some of these poetic phrases and began constructing lyrics, tentative melodies and structures. There was a lot of visual memories involved – a process unlike any other she had explored before. She sent ideas to bandmate and co-producer Andrew Futral and suddenly, writing a new album seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
Brand new album, Meaning, is a record that makes peace with our former selves and allows us to grow despite the entropy that surrounds us. It doesn’t provide answers for the chaos, instead offering eleven ruminations that look for an answer – for meaning – at a time when most of us feel lost. The songs explore what the world ending means on a global level and also on a personal level. They provide coherent narratives for when things are out of control – in the government, in your personal life, in your family and your social circle.
The album is released this Friday, 16th August, via Topshelf Records – but you can stream the whole thing below right now, alongside a track-by-track guide written by Rachel Browne.
words by rachel browne
Meaning: Our first ever “intro track”. I wrote this song by myself after we had started recording, once the theme of the album came together. This song is one of the most lyrically vague, which was intentional. I wanted to set the tone with some imagery and a sort of eerie but welcoming feel.
Heart of Gold: One of the only songs on the album that’s about relationships rather than the more macro stuff. Andrew wrote the music for this one and the lyrics and vocal melody came to me very quickly. It is a song examining the end of a relationship through years of hindsight and growth, and the very simple but important feeling of wanting good things for a person you were once romantically involved with. It is also about growing up and out of bad habits and breaking damaging cycles, and saying goodbye to the parts of yourself that no longer have anything to teach you.
In Blue: This song is one of the most personal on the record, but it deals with bigger, more universal themes as well. It was essentially written for my sister Robin, with parts of it from her perspective and parts from mine. Episodic was largely written during and after her cancer diagnosis and treatment, but those songs dealt with my feelings and anxieties more than anything. Robin has been cancer free for three and a half years, and I wanted to really write a song for her, inviting her back into a place of calm in a world that can be beautiful. It recognizes the things that are out of our control but asks her (and all of us) to let go of the worry and focus on the things that bring us joy.
Skygazing: This song is about choosing where to place meaning in our lives. It is about being highly distractable as a society and feeling like we don’t have enough time as a result of this fragmented focus. Parts of it are ruminations on my past selves and those of my loved ones, the things we need to reconcile with in order to grow, and if who we used to be matters now.
Black Hole, Son: Andrew fought for this title and it still makes me chuckle. It is also appropriate because this song is about a vision of the end of the world in something catastrophic, like a black hole. The verses deal with more earthly feelings of solitude and relationship tension, things which seem ridiculous when set against total annihilation. It is about going back and forth between fretting over micro things like social anxiety and freaking out about the literal end of the world.
White Elephant: A white elephant is a gift that is too much of a burden to keep. This song explores that idea in the context of friendships and relationships through the weird mirror of dream logic. Giving up the weight of something that doesn’t work in order to move on.
Visitors: I wrote this song in one sitting, which is rare for me. I had just read an intense book about social media addiction, and how smartphones are legitimately changing our brains. It is pretty horrifying. I was thinking about how it often feels like the slow decline of civilization to see how people act on their phones (scrolling and driving, walking into traffic without looking up, etc), and how I am as unwittingly addicted to my phone as anyone. Using social media can be very isolating and also very misleading. The parts of our lives that we post about do not accurately represent who we are as a whole, and as a result, there are these strange versions of our friends (and selves) that we know aren’t real. Various studies show that memory and information storage are negatively affected by social media use, and that really scares me. These things meant to help us capture memories are actually really bad for the organic recollection of them! The lyrics look at how we fail to absorb much of our lives due to a lack of focus on what is actually happening around us. It is about being frustrated with myself for having such a hard time with it, and of course with tech companies for designing it to be precisely as it is.
Apocalypse Whenever: The alternate title was “A Comet with No Name”. It’s a different vision of the end of the world in which humans have ruined everything, and whether it be from a comet impact or the fall of Western civilization as we know it, the change is coming.
Birthday Song: The second song I wrote before we knew we were making another album. I wrote it soon after getting married on one of the shortest days of the year in my apartment in West Philly. I’d just had a birthday and felt insane and was still unsure if I was going to continue writing and recording music in earnest. I was trying to purely enjoy being a newlywed, but I’d lost both my aunt and one of my best friends from high school in the span of a few weeks surrounding the wedding. I had insomnia and things were just dark and weird. This song helped me get out of that headspace and it also reminded me that I could still write.
Plague No. 8: The first song I wrote for this album, and the first song written post-Episodic. I did not know if we were going to make another album yet, and was in an extremely bizarre place in my life. Our last tour had been immediately after the 2016 election, and we came home broke and exhausted. I got a job and applied to graduate school and got engaged. It didn’t seem feasible to have a music career, and I didn’t know how to write music if I didn’t have that as a goal. In the middle of all of this, I wrote this song almost accidentally. It is about how sad it felt to consider giving up but how tired I was, and sort of communicating with my younger self.
Blind Spot: This is maybe my favorite song on the album. I think it was the last song we wrote other than the title track. The lyrics weave in and out of a dream that I actually had where I was half blind and all this insane stuff was happening. The waking portion is me talking to myself about my own life, and what is left over when parts of it end. It is me examining the things I want and the reasons I have worked for them.
Pre-order Meaning right here, via Topshelf Records