The experience of listening to Fleet Foxes’ latest offering is a rare musical pleasure.
The ‘baroque pop’ outfit from Seattle have been in the music-making business since highly school. Previously under the name “Pineapple”, the band released their first EP album under the Fleet Foxes brand in 2006. This debut album, entitled Sun Giant, introduced listeners to a new age folk style, perfect for the indie rock listener. Helplessness Blues, their third and latest album was released in May 2011, and has born absolute testament to their musical talent and prowess as performers.
While Sun Giant and their self-titled album (released in 2008) are both spectacular treats, the Helplessness Blues line-up reaches a new level entirely. Described by Rolling Stones magazine as ‘stunning’, the album is raw, emotional and confident. It incorporates more instrumental passages, violins and synth effects; beefing up their usual guitar and tambourine approach. One of the songs entitled “The Shrine/ An Argument” showcases some grungy and gritty vocals by frontman, Rick Pecknold. This album presents a more mature set of musicians, and though different, holds true to the angelic sound Fleet Foxes fans have come to love.
The songs, “Lorelei” and “Blue Spotted Tail” are more in the spirit of previous albums, but both seem to have sacrificed strong instrumental work in favour of what are admittedly, excellent lyrics. Reminiscent of Damien Rice’s “Cheers Darlin”, “Lorelei” represents the typical folk theme of unrequited love. Unfortunately some of the songs tended towards live performance success rather than being versatile enough to apply to an album recording as well. However, this is a subtle concession for what can be considered to be an easy listening euphoric experience.
This most recent album has finally catapulted Fleet Foxes into some well-deserved spotlight. Lead singer, Robin Peckold was approached by Ed Droste, the main vocalist of Grizzly Bear, a popular rock band, collaborating on a song called “I’m Losing Myself”; which leans closer towards Fleet Foxes’ original sound. Although Helplessness Blues is a development on past works, that the band is not yet ready to altogether change direction. The title track reflects this, and with lyrics like “Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn”, “Helplessness Blues” is true to the poetic sincerity which makes the album remarkable.
For Fleet Foxes die-hards and new fans alike, listening to Helplessness Blues is 55 minutes and 37 seconds very well spent.