Soundcheck: One Ticket to Fielded, Please

For her latest Soundcheck column, Donna-Claire dives into what makes Fielded new album Plus One her best yet – with an emphasis on collaboration, Fielded's voice is the binding agent with their...
By    September 21, 2023

Image via Ashley Peña

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Donna-Claire says this new Fielded album sounds like the sun coming out after hours of rain.

The nights are largely the same, but they don’t blend together: dinner, baseball, records. Not always in that order. Sometimes there are day games—sometimes the records consume me in the early afternoon—sometimes dinner is an hour late because the workday keeps my wife and I apart. But these things, the games and the music, they are constants. They are anchors. And I am always searching for something or other to let into my life and take over me with a nibbling curiosity as if a field mouse nestling into a foundational crack of a home, tearing apart paper towels to create a hovel in an oven drawer. I’m talking, of course, about being so enraptured by a record it almost becomes part of some glorious regiment. A shelter. A thing to look forward to in an era of immense struggle. To this end, we have Fielded and their newest album, their best album, Plus One.

Fielded is a roamer with their writing, touchpoints feel loose but all harken back to a strong sense of poetic intuition. Their voice sounds like a vision from an astral projection. They sound like they could sell guided meditation recordings that actually allow you to capture the slip between wakefulness and mindfulness.

When I dug into Plus One for the first time, I turned it off after the second song. I needed to brew tea, close my eyes, and feel the record pass through me. I get the tea ball, shaped like the Death Star, and fill it with psychocandy tea, which has been mistaken for my psychedelics by many houseguests. Once we are brewed and steeped, I press play on the advance and hear something I’d not heard in Fielded’s voice before: hope, assurance even.

So, let’s talk specifics. Fielded has been writing, recording, singing for over a decade. They have a career that spans a handful of sharp and wispy LPs predating their work with the billy woods-helmed Backwoodz Studioz, and some breathtaking work alongside woods and his indie compatriots. For sonic influences, they channel Erykah Badu and Janet Jackson. The understated tenderness of these two women finds its place in Fielded’s sumptuous vocal expressions. Things feel as luxe and moody as Badu or Janet, with the added texture of Fielded’s own melodic sense.

Fielded’s presence is waterfalling silk, enveloped by tender torrents of self-reflection. Listening to Fielded is like placing a film positive on a light table and allowing the illumination to cast up and delight you with a final image. Fielded is a bellowing experience. To listen to the artist born Lindsay Powell is to find yourself in the belly of a swell of transparency. Here is an artist who wholly and truly gives themselves over to the recording. It is trite to suggest recording is therapy, but when I listen to Plus One, I hear the byproduct of therapy itself.

For Plus One, Fielded assembles a striking cast of features from woods and ELUCID to They Hate Change, to Kenny Segal, and loads more impressive voices. With the stacked list of contributors, Plus One plays like an invitation into a crowded studio space on the heels of Backwoodz achieving national pub acclaim in the last few years. Fielded’s very presence on Backwoodz—a label dedicated to the grit and oddball sharpness of independent rap music—is in its own way a revelation. Fielded represents the future-reaching goals of the label at large. Since their appearance on woods’ Terror Management, Fielded has become a staple collaborator across the label.

With the spirit of collaboration high, Fielded does not bend or appear brittle alongside their comrades in music excavation on Plus One. No, Fielded’s voice is the binding agent for this album. A record that could appear to be a who’s who compilation of Backwoodz mainstays instead plays out like a triumphant meeting of the minds. Everyone on Plus One lends themselves to a heightened sense of camaraderie and an even clearer picture of who Fielded is as a creative force.

In 2020, Fielded released Demisexual Lovelace, an album I got on with because of the themes of codependency, living with bipolar disorder, and general purpose—but gorgeous sounding—woe. When I connected with Fielded for an interview around that album’s release, we spoke of loneliness and forgiveness, and they left me with a very moving quote: “It can feel Sisyphean to try and forgive yourself.” With Plus One, there is a newfound invitation to let go and move on. There is a freedom to this record, a promise to hold space for the big feelings that come with an unpredictable life, but also to remember that we are longer than the shadows we cast.

In that way, Plus One is illuminating. It is an all-consuming series of should-be standards for the pop-jazz-experimentalists of the world. It plays as though Fielded is beaming in to their past selves and encouraging each of them to keep it pushing, to keep up the effort, to remember that effort makes life fulfilling. Such is the theme of “Where I Came From.” Plus One brims with heart and carries with it a sense of pride free of sin. I’ve never heard them so self-confident and impassioned on wax. On the cheeky “Freakyextendooooo,” Fielded exhales wisdom over a blitzing production. The song is a shapeshifting feat of engineering, matched only by the gooey slink of “I Saw You,” where Fielded’s sensuality seeps across images of honey and the breeziness of releasing yourself from expectations. “Move It Like,” as well, could be the standout of the night at a European discotheque.

On the brief “Honeysuckle,” Fielded sings in twisting tongues, develops their own pidgin language to deliver a heavy line: “You reach for me, but it’s too late.” It’s a moment of autonomy and reclamation for Fielded, whose previous works were angling around the deep tension of battling against subconscious desire. Here, they box out their worst habits to plant a flag in a new world. These themes continue on the aptly titled, deeply rich “Goddess Woes.” Earlier, on “Afternoon Sun,” there is a languid swing to the vocals and production that underscore Fielded’s writing surrounding snatching what belongs to them out of thin air. Every moment on Plus One feels like an inflection point for them, a moment where their seat of intuition takes control and guides them to new heights.

During our Demisexual Lovelace interview, Fielded revealed the series of questions they asked themselves, and the questions those questions begat in regards to love and companionship. Plus One also engages with key questions. But this time, instead of spinning out from the overwhelming sensation of unknown unknowns, it sounds as though Fielded has honed in on the two key questions that help make sense of life’s deregulating quality: When am I? What am I needing? These two questions attack fear, they demolish the tension between the self and our inner-knowing, leaving a wonderful and tangible truth beaming beneath the rubble. Or, more simply, Fielded is totally tuned in with themselves.

Plus One reads to me like being on a team with yourself. Being your best friend, your trusted confidant, and holding yourself accountable. It extends beyond the necessity for delusional self-belief into the physical realm of true self-care that you can’t exactly prop up and use for profit. It is what happens when you stop trying out your tight five in therapy and actually listen. It is sincere. Plus One makes me believe in the power of self-forgiveness. It is a sonic and literary marvel. A true testament to learning by making.

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