Photo: Michelle Lucille Taylor / Courtesy of Clarion Call Media

Far Lands Deliver Understated Gem “There Be Monsters” (premiere)

"There Be Monsters" from Portland's Far Lands is understated but impactful and a testament to the group's attention to richly detailed songwriting.

There Be Monsters is the sophomore release from Portland, Oregon’s Far Lands. Dropping on 30 April, the album finds Andy McFarlane, Ivan Howard, and Matt Drenik creating a quiet, contemplative series of songs that rewards deeper, meditative listening. Though the word “meditative” has been abused in ways that most often violate international treaties and frequently suggests music that slides from memory the way a speeding car slides off an ice-covered highway, the music created by Far Lands is deeply memorable, wholly resonant, and thoroughly impactful.

One can hear that on the titular piece, which most often recalls the rich, thoughtful material generated by the troubadours of the early 1970s. Lyrics and melodies reveal their full charms over repeated listenings while capturing our imaginations on the first spin.

What’s different about Far Lands, though, is that this isn’t an attempt to recapture some bygone era or echo the sounds of a particular Southern California canyon. This is music of its time and yet all time, a record that respects itself and refuses to be dressed up in ill-fitting clothes. It’s hyperbole to say that there’s nothing quite like this out there in the world, and yet Far Lands have carved out a space that is comfortable, familiar, and as inviting as the Pacific Northwest woods.

McFarlane recalls the tracks origins, offering, “This is the kind of song that happens when you wake up from a dream with a melody stuck in your head and you go straight to your favorite chair and pull out that notepad that’s dedicated specifically for the first thoughts of the day, over coffee.” He continues, “In this case, that happened on three consecutive mornings, and the resulting 40 or so verses ranged from sweet to heartbreaking, to completely goofy. After a bit of back-and-forth and a ton of laughter during the demo process, I arrived at the ones that made the cut and came the closest to telling some truth about where I was at that exact point in time.”

Ivan Howard adds, “With Andy’s songs or, more honestly, poems, I was trying to help produce and build a world for his words and melodies to live in. I’d try to find the hidden road map in each of his sets of words and follow it down its path. We would then meet up at an intersection. Put a pin where it was and say, let’s build it here. Sometimes lush and dark, sometimes breezy and light, but always trying to accommodate those poems.”