Fleet Foxes Foray Back to Folksy Woods

Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues
Release Date: May 3, 2011
SubPop

 

Fleet Foxes, the indie folk darlings that won critics over in 2008 return with their second full length album, Helplessness Blues.  For fans, the same warm tones and vocal harmonies remain intact, especially with opening track “Montezuma”.  The complimenting ohs and mandolin strings feel like a hug wrapped in a cozy blanket.

From reading the background posted on the band’s Subpop profile, lead singer Robin Pecknold writes of his influences for this new album:

“I think this music draws influence and inspiration from popular music and folk rock of the mid ‘60s to the early ’70s, folks like Peter Paul & Mary, John Jacob Niles, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Neil Young, CSN, Judee Sill, Ennio Morricone, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The Zombies, SMiLE-era Brian Wilson, Roy Harper, Van Morrison, John Fahey, Robbie Basho, The Trees Community, Duncan Browne, the Electric Prunes, Trees, Pete Seeger, and Sagittarius, among many others. I’d say it’s a synthesis of folk rock, traditional folk, & psychedelic pop, with an emphasis on group vocal harmonies. Astral Weeks was a big inspiration on this album, if not always in sound then in approach. The raw emotion in Van Morrison’s vocals and the trance-like nature of the arrangements were very inspiring for this album!

Musically it leans on country music a little bit more, in the slide guitar of songs like “Grown Ocean” and “Bedouin Dress” or “Helplessness Blues.” We used a number of new instruments including the 12-string guitar, the hammered dulcimer, zither, upright bass, wood flute, tympani, Moog synthesizer, the tamboura, the fiddle, the marxophone, clarinet, the music box, pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, Tibetan singing bowls, vibraphone, along with more traditional band instrumentation.”

The additional instruments do bring a richer layer to their music as can be heard on “Sim Sala Bim” with the Eastern musical influences highlighted.  My only criticism for the new album is the kinda juvenile lyrics on the title track “Helplessness Blues”:

I was raise up believing I was somehow unique
like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
unique in each way you can see
and now after some thinking
I say I’d rather be a functioning clog in some great machinary
serving something beyond me
but i don’t, i don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see 

I’m sorry Foxes this sounds like a 13 year old girl’s diary.  What is interesting is that the first time I heard Fleet Foxes I was drawn to their lyrics and my other friend told me how when she listens to music lyrics come second.  I think in this case, Fleet Foxes’ sophomore effort thrives more on their musical compositions and less on the word.  The boys provide lush, layered tunes and “The Cascade” is the sole instrumental piece which demonstrates their talent best.

Lastly, you should check out their video for “Grown Ocean” which was produced by Robin’s brother Sean Pecknold who is a very talented artist in his own right.

Track list
Montezuma
Bedouin Dress
Sim Sala Bim
Battery Kinzie
The Plains Bitter Dancer
Helplessness Blues
The Casades
Lorelai
Someone You’d Admire
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Grown Ocean 

US tour dates
05.01 – Crystal Ballroom / Portland, OR
05.03 – Moore Theatre / Seattle, WA
05.05 – Fox Theater / Oakland, CA
05.06 – Spreckles Theatre / San Diego, CA
05.07 – Hollywood Palladium / Hollywood, CA
05.08 – Rialto Theatre / Tucson, AZ
05.10 – Stubb’s Waller Creek / Austin, TX
05.11 – Palladium Ballroom / Dallas, TX
05.13 – Ryman Auditorium / Nashville, TN
05.14 – The Tabernacle / Atlanta, GA
05.15 – DAR Constitution Hall / Washington, DC
05.17 – Orpheum Theatre / Boston, MA
05.18 – The United Palace Theatre / New York, NY
05.21 – Tower Theatre / Upper Darby, PA
07.16 – Pitchfork Music Festival / Chicago, IL
07.17 – State Theatre / Minneapolis, MN
07.18 – Uptown Theater / Kansas City, MO
07.19 – The Pageant / St. Louis, MO
07.21 – The Fillmore Auditorium / Denver, CO
07.22 – Red Butte Garden Amphitheater / Salt Lake City, UT
07.23 – Knitting Factory / Boise, ID
07.24 – Edgefield Amphitheater / Troutdale, OR

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