[streaming] Field Guides – Guessing At Animals

Taken from “This is Just a Place”, out September 28th via Whatever’s Clever.

How profoundly the world opened up to you that afternoon you found an anthill in the backyard, when you saw up close, with a magnifying glass in your grubby little paw, the clean and organized city of critters humming just behind your house. It was there all along, and suddenly now everything was full of hidden magic, untold organisms. You were moved, you cared for them, your heart skipped a beat when you saw their antennas wiggling back and forth. You were amazed. You let into your ribcage a new form of kindness, one you felt echoed in the grass and in the trees, in the flick of a lizard’s tongue.

Field Guides—the long-running, ever-evolving Brooklyn collective helmed by singer/songwriter Benedict Kupstas—makes quietly explosive guitar pop and skewed folk that zooms out along those lines. Swirling birdsong, lines from poems, sea foam, and sand all honeycomb expansively around sweet baritone melodies that lie growing and plump, like mushrooms under a log.

Once, on a hike in Monterey Bay, my friends and I came across the recently dead body of a cormorant, splayed gently cliffside, high above the waves. It’s little heart had stopped but its wings were still warm (it must have just died, moments before we arrived) and its body surprisingly light. It felt clean, at peace, and full of grace. After a few moments of reverent silence our professor—a maritime literature specialist with a soft spot for birds—pulled out a well-worn, teal beach towel and gently swaddled the cormorant, its head lolling back against his chest. He knew folks at the Smithsonian who would want it and we had an empty cooler in the back of the van back in the parking lot, so we carried it with us back down the cliffs. Field Guides sounds like that afternoon, full of heartbreak, mercy, and hollow bones.



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