4/26 WKNC Pick of the Week
written by DJ Ones, WKNC Daytime deejay
Following the immense success of 2008’s debut self-titled album, Fleet Foxes took three years of touring, recording and reflecting before their sophomore release, Helplessness Blues.
The delay, although difficult for early fans, may have done just what it needed to calm some of the hype for their second full-length. It also allowed time for Fleet Foxes to grow, experiment and hone their skills as proper folk artists.
Fleet Foxes, while holding onto their abilities to create folk tracks with large amounts of grandeur, allowed themselves to experiment, reflect and refresh what could have been an attempt to repeat the sounds present on their debut. Quite simply, Fleet Foxes did everything that was necessary for a proper sophomore album.
Getting an early insight into the majestic, nostalgic mind of lead singer Robin Pecknold, the album starts with an intimate beginnings as he reflects, “Oh man what I used to be!” As the harmonies of the band echo in the background, Pecknold carries along with hopeful yet observant sentiments on what could happen and what already has happened, a proper opening for an excellent second album.
Helplessness Blues keeps the audience captivated as they experiment with new techniques for song writing.
On two different occasions the band combines two songs, which create some of the most peculiar moments on the album. In “The Plains/Bitter Dancer,” Fleet Foxes start with a light, yet long instrumental opening that merges into a track that is less traditional Fleet Foxes, and instead calls back to the older folk generations that influenced their music.
Some of the most stripped down moments throughout the album allow for some of the most powerful moments.
In the title track, Fleet Foxes hone this surging folk sound dominated by multiple acoustic guitars, the range of Pecknold and the ability to progress tracks from within to climax.
Pecknold and company have the capability to bring in beautiful lullabies to calm down and change it up. In “Blue Spotted Tail” they utilize only the smooth harmonies of Pecknold’s voice and a guitar, which proves to be both soothing and dreamy.
However, Fleet Foxes is able to deliver one of their greatest tracks with the conclusion of Helplessness Blues.
“Grown Ocean,” a soaring dream of Pecknold’s creation, carries alongside an optimistic, grand collaboration of all elements, old and new.
Hearkening to some of the vast musical mixtures of their first album, Fleet Foxes is also able to create layers with incredible precision. As flutes penetrate the epic collision of instruments that guide us along the dreamy atmosphere of Pecknold’s lyrics, Fleet Foxes conclude their excellent album with one of the greatest folk tracks of the past decade.
Through a combination of experimenting with new musical elements, utilizing their previous combinations of folk music and writing meaningful lyrics, Fleet Foxes delivers one of the best albums of the year.