This is Fleet Foxes’ second full-length disc. It was released on May 3rd by Sub-Pop. Its 12 tracks clock in at just under 50 minutes, almost every second of which bone-chilling.
I apologize for the lengthy unintentional hiatus between posts. It’s just been one of those months, but enough of that. There are more important things to “blog” about. ‘Tis an ugly word… “blog”, hmm? Sounds like something your biology teacher might tell you to discard during a dissection. “Empty your blog troughs for the next class please.” Couldn’t they have just stuck with Web Log? I digress. Forgive me. I’ll start over.
Relatability. Not sure that’s a word. I don’t care. It’s the one word that makes this album so damn good. Fleet Foxes’ first LP, which happens to be named Fleet Foxes, was an exceptionally beautiful piece of music. Coupled with their Sun Giant EP which was released around the same time, it was a musically positive experience to say the least. However, it didn’t exactly throw my soul under the proverbial bus like most critics claimed it to do. This leads me to my point about relatability.
Where Helplessness Blues is concerned, this disc is a damn Greyhound headed for Soultown, population: Me. The band has exceeded every expectation. They’ve taken everything they have done before and trumped it vigorously. From Montezuma to Grown Ocean, there’s unyielding, relentless, driving folk perfection and lyrics that put you in the song… really right in the middle. Track 4, “Battery Kinzie”: “I went to your window, threw a stone and waited/At your door a stranger stood, the stranger’s voice said nothing good/I turn to walk the frozen ground, alone, all the way home.” Guy steals girl from other guy. Who, the hell, hasn’t been in a similar situation? Who? Yeah, no one. If you’re not the one guy, then you’re the other guy, and if you’re not one of those two, then you’re the girl. It’s relatable, that’s my point. Beautiful music can only be made more beautiful by being relatable. Fleet Foxes have done it well on this one. Much more so than on their self-titled debut.
On “Someone You’d Admire”, a 2 minute and change long tour de force, finds the subject coping with who he is and who might turn out to be. “I walk with others in me yearning to get out/Claw at my skin and gnash their teeth and shout/One of them wants only to be someone you’d admire/the other would as soon just throw you on the fire/after all is said, and after all is done/God only knows which of them I’ll become.” My money says there will not be a more moving set of lyrics written this year. Helplessness Blues is riddled with moments like these.
I must say that Robin Pecknold and crew, even on the earlier efforts, really come out above the rest when it comes to vocal arrangements. Not many other bands really put together anything quite like these guys do. Spectacular. If you like to sing, Fleet Foxes are good for a challenging sing-along experience. There’s really a lot going on vocally. So that’s fun.
Really, it’s no wonder critics are lauding this album. Pitchfork even gave it an 8.8. That’s almost unheard of, especially for the genre. Take their word for it, along with my own.