There's a moment in "Cardinal Direction," the last track on Farm's latest album, that sums up what it's like trying to explain the band's sound to someone who's never heard the Vermont trio before. The song contains a monologue of increasingly befuddling driving directions that at one point informs the listener, "I know it's a little confusing… but it's just the way that shit's laid out here." This statement may resonate with first time listeners of the vocal/instrument/genre-swapping band, but Farm's new album is a welcomed collection of 11 songs for initiated fans who have grown to expect uncertainty.
Farm opted to self-title their fourth album, which is a fitting choice for two reasons: First, the album has the most unified sound of any Farm record yet, and second, it captures the band's wide skill-sets and tastes in one place. From the album's piano intro, it's immediately apparent that Farm is going to be softer, more pensive fare, but anyone worried about the band losing their sense of playfulness needn't look any further than the first song's name -- "Monkey v. Demons." The mellow introspection present throughout Farm puts all of the band's puzzle pieces together, creating a clearer, bigger picture than ever before.
But as the name suggests, this is an essential Farm album, which means no matter how well the songs accompany each other, they're not going to sound at all alike. The album hops from a capella gang vocals ("Two & a Half"), to suspenseful horns lifted from a noir movie ("Going Crazy is Hard Times"), to sparse electronic bleeps ("Running Water"), to Middle Eastern arrangements ("Sun is a Fog") without stopping for breath. And in the middle of all of that, there's "When it's Time," the somber centerpiece that finds Jedd Kettler pondering the particulars of what will happen when his time runs out. So maybe "it's confusing" in places, but this quiet, connected collection of songs makes one thing very clear to me: I've come to appreciate the way shit's laid out here.