in Review

Summertime Blues

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

With their refreshingly straightforward brand of folk-pop, Fleet Foxes created one of the most beloved debut albums in recent memory.  Their latest album Helplessness Blues, is one of those great sophomore releases that sees the band expanding just enough on their sound to feel like an impressive step forward while still offering the same lush harmonies and excellent songwriting you’d expect from these Seattle folkies.

What really stood out for me about Fleet Foxes’ debut among other things was their masterful use of four-part harmonies, and there’s certainly no shortage of breathtaking vocal arrangements on Helplessness Blues.  However, you’ve got lead singer/songwriter (and Lake Washington High School alum) Robin Pecknold stepping even more to the forefront, which gives the album a more intimate feeling on a lot of the songs.  However, you’ve still got songs like “Lorelei” and “Grown Ocean” that have that gorgeous all-encompassing sound that these guys do quite well.  And you’ve even got traces of psychedelic sounds that fit quite nicely with Fleet Foxes ’60s inspired aesthetic.

In addition, Helplessness Blues also has it’s darker moments in addition to the more whimsical tracks, while the songs frequently have a somewhat looser quality, often taking on different shapes and tempos in midstream.  The lyrics are a bit more insular, with Pecknold approaching more personal themes and motifs, and it’s all done with the utmost care and precision.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised how deeply I’ve gotten into this album since as much as I liked Fleet Foxes’ debut, I never quite fell in love with it the way a lot of people did.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve had so few albums that I’ve really responded to this year, but either way it’s filled with lots of truly breathtaking material and it’s a fine album to start off the summer with.

Favorite Tracks: “Battery Kinzie”, “Helplessness Blues”, “Grown Ocean”