Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues

     Do Fleet Foxes really need any introduction? The Seattle-based sextet ran headlong into the limelight in 2008 with their self-titled debut; an album that became one of the most talked about of that year. The band consists of Robin Pecknold, Skyler Skjelset and Christian Wargo, three of the six that make up the factory of feel-good folk music that is Fleet Foxes. Three years after their tremendous debut, this band is still churning out brilliant music that oozes summer love and that blows your every worry away.
     Fleet Foxes are very much a folk group, defined by their harmonious vocals and happy, soothing sound. The feel of this band hasn't changed much from their first album to this one, but the sound has been polished and there are bigger, more ambitious ideas present here, that I felt the previous record was lacking in. The main selling point for this album though, is definitely the vibes it gives off. Happiness. Joy. Softness. These are the words that spring to your mind as it frolics through the cloudless field that is this twelve track masterpiece. A true achievement in feel-good music.
     Every track feels as though the band has taken a lot of time over the lyrics, but not in a complicated and over-thought way. They give the impression that they care, and that helps the music connect with the listener. Joy has been extracted from every corner of the album in this way, from the "fur of the collie 'neath the table" on 'Sim Sala Bim' to "warm in his hands" on 'Someone You'd Admire'. All the songs are sang with a very pure-sounding, honest tone that reinforces the ideas on this album. Coming to the vocals, there are six people in Fleet Foxes, and the voices of the four that sing accumulate into a sweet and sugary harmony that hits all the right places.
     A song that stood out for me as a sound we haven't really heard before is 'The Shrine / An Argument' At the start in particular there are spots at which the vocals from Robin Pecknold build into a fiercely joyous shout. In an almost apologetic manner, Fleet Foxes offsets this immediately with a soft and harmonious section that feels perfectly performed. Another sound from the same track is that of a beating drum and strong acoustic guitar strumming. Experimentation as well. This track is certainly the most interesting for me, simply because of the variety it retains. There are soft vocals and soft instruments, but then there are loud instruments and strange sounds. A wonderful track in a frankly wonderful album.
     In a way though, with all the vocal harmonies and sugary melodies, I can understand why some people may find this record and perhaps Fleet Foxes in general, slightly overwhelming. Their sound is one of magnitude, but not in a punk or aggressive way. Their sound is one of happiness, trying to wrap the world in it's golden glow. If you're a fan of folk music, or indeed music in general, this is nothing less that a must have. A record awe-inspiring and care-free, this is a modern classic and one that is truly beautiful.