Boy, Ben Gibbard, are you ever in trouble! Chad Hanson, formerly of the Dutch Flat and Mines has a new project and moniker, Field Notes. Recorded in both Seattle and Brooklyn, where Hanson just relocated, the album resonates with the upbeat, yet sad pop of the Bellingham band that I need not mention. Alternating between lone quiet bedroom recordings and multi-instrumental pop compositions, the debut from Field Notes, Color of Sunshine, is the perfect mix of east and west coast styles.
Chad Hanson’s former bands are a mixed bag of genres from post rock to power pop, but with Color of Sunshine it sounds as it he’s hit his stride and found his niche. Contagious melodies abound on the album providing a solid foundation for any style of music that Hanson wants to play. Upbeat openers “Racing the Lanes” and especially “Sister Says” are accomplished pieces of songwriting that are both infectious and memorable. The former’s “ooh’s” in the chorus will remind one of the Shins while the latter’s tempo and vocal style recall the Postal Service, but one would have to replace the guitars with keyboards.
Hanson doesn’t really sound like Ben Gibbard, who seems like the poster boy for that `indie singer’ sound. Instead, Hanson’s voice is actually measured, hushed and melodic as is exemplified in the song “Full Circle.” The song has that serene west coast acoustic feel until the background white noise of the electric guitar starts filling the space like a Brooklyn accent on The O.C.. It’s not that it doesn’t fit; it’s just that it’s noticeable. The title track is one of the highlights of the CD, sounding like Iron & Wine covering Elliott Smith or vice versa. It’s one of those songs that could easily end up on one of those mixes you make for that girl you have your eye on.
Hanson is already planning two more albums, one a folk / country based affair and the other a melodic electronic set. Hmmm…sound familiar Ben? Field Notes is the perfect name for Hanson’s new incarnation. His experiences in various locations with various sounds all contribute to a finer whole. One can imagine him writing down thoughts, song lyrics, and general ideas into a Moleskine notebook, turning each idea from its raw materials into a gem of a song.