Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues

The much-anticipated crop from Fleet Foxes’ delayed harvest has had critics waiting with baited breath. Riding an auspicious wave of fortune from their self-titled first album, it has been a difficult decision for the band whether to steer their relatively safe Americana sound away from its indie-appalachian folk lyric to a more focused and earnest form of song writing.

Given the success of their first record, premature success was always going to be a hurdle for the band. Rather than pandering to the audience’s desires for a musical reincarnation of their previous work; impressively Fleet Foxes have collected their strengths to generate skilled harmonic fluidity as the driving force of adventurous melody rather than mere vacant ornamentation.

While this is a progression for the band’s overall sound, it has a distinct hark towards a time of rustic acoustics and fastidious textures. The inclusion of lingering wooden flutes and hammered dulcimers only reminds the listener of the lack of an electric guitar, carrying a redundant and monotonous riff. Although the band adheres to a set nostalgic tone, not far removed from the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, it is the evocative loneliness of lead singer, Robin Pecknold, who encapsulates a lyric that denotes a mature and more contemplative approach to their music.

Pecknold’s vocal performance on tracks ‘Someone You’d Admire’ and ‘Montezuma’ remind us why we fell for the band’s previous album. However, instead of requiring a hefty dose of sunshine and youthful optimism to listen to the album, ‘The Cascades’ and ‘Grown Ocean’ provide an entry level that is much more accessible; the intent force behind their rhythmic pattern allowing an odd break of vocal convention in the Seattle-based groups music.

Helplessness Blues contemplates youthful fears of growing older. At 25 years of age, Pecknold is too young to exacerbate his concerns of an ill-fated future. Instead he and the band take advice, wisdom and sanctuary in the songwriters of a previous generation to produce a replenished take on their enchanting musical dynamic in an overcrowded alternative pop scene.