Fleet Foxes-Helplessness Blues

Editor’s Note: Fleet Foxes is one of those groups that I, for whatever reason, can not get into. I understand that isn’t the case for a lot of you, so I brought in a ringer to write a review of their new album Helplessness Blues. I’ve known Kevin Crowley for years, and he is a very talented musician himself. There are few people who have an opinion that I take seriously when it comes to music, but his is one of them.

When I go places and run into people and get into conversations about music I have to mention fleet foxes.  I’m compelled.  It’s like a few years ago when people would talk about the government and I couldn’t help but talk about zeitgeist.  Yeesh.  Here though is a conversation you can have without sounding pretentious or paranoid!  I mean, I really want people to listen to this record.

So I had been running around touting these songs and getting some good feedback and smiles, figured I’d let my brother know about it.
“It’s really folky, Kev.”
“Why do they sound like a choir?”
“Not really into it, man.”

Blast.  Maybe I needed to rethink my position on this record.  Okay I’ll listen to “Lorelai” again. “Battery Kinsie,” one more time.  “The Shrine?”  Again.

No, my position is just fine and duly justified.  These are great songs.  This is great production.  These are great performances.  This is a great record.  In an age where the industry has been flipped on its head and getting music piece by piece is seemingly the new model, this record shows there is still power in putting out a good album.   Maybe folksiness isn’t your thing, but open an ear anyway and I’m sure you will appreciate these tunes.

Robin Pecknold, lead singer and chief song writer, has called the record more lyrically based and even boring but I think he’s being a bit too self-effacing.  A lot of goodies here.  Big step forward from the last record.  There’s groove here, less experimentation, great melodies.  Just try to get “Bedouin Dress” out of your head, maybe you will but give it a minute and you’ll be humming “Sim Sala Bim” for an hour.

The album was recorded in Seattle over the past year and a half or so and they took their time on it.  A lot of the songs came out of Robin playing alone and wanting to write more songs for those situations.  Only once or twice do the songs shift gears dramatically but the changes make sense.  Of course, the vocal harmonies are wonderful and the arrangements are fantastic.  Things we have come to expect from these fellas.

They are pulling it off live too, a sound that is very nuanced with some serious intricacies.  Some times Robin will sit down but lately he’s been standing up, moving around and getting into it a little deeper.  I don’t think their goal at the outset was to be a live band and I think the music scene touting them as the best live act of two thousand whatever was a bit premature but these guys got chops and are very entertaining.  Christian Wargo can really lay it down vocally and is cool as can be.  Skyler (Skjelset) is very solid and has some great lines.  Keys, mandolins, the drums!  All solid.  Plus, the addition of multi instrumentalist Morgan Henderson into the fold brings even more depth.

A lot of people think the sixties when they hear these guys but I hear more.  I hear great craftsmanship and thoughtful insight.  I see the boundaries being pushed and the foundation respected.  Check this record, just listen to it on youtube or whatever, Robin doesn’t mind.  He’s been very vocal about his feelings on file-sharing.  You will want to own this.  As soon as I get some cash its the first record I’m buying.  You will probably want to tell your friends about it too, and for once, talking about the hip new band won’t make you sound like a jerk.

Pick up the record on iTunes!