Fleet Foxes’ 2008 self-titled debut mixed down-home sonic cooking with present-day sensibilities. While the folky band’s introduction was a little rough around the edges, it did garner critical acclaim with SPIN Magazine naming frontman Robin Pecknold the Voice of the Year for 2008. Fast-forward two and a half years. Pecknold remains in SPIN’s good graces (he’s the current cover boy), and Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop) is a smoother, more palatable offering from the Seattle-based band.
Blues opens with “Montezuma,” where Pecknold’s howling vocals sound as though they influenced The Temper Trap’s success. Fleet Foxes still craft songs that were birthed in an another era, like “Sim Sala Bim” and the rustic follower “Battery Kinzie”–both reminiscent of two decades prior. It has become a popular trend in music to produce an amalgam of the past and the present in song, and Fleet Foxes does so gracefully. At times they are a little too convincing though, like in “Lorelai” (no Gilmore Girls) a track that could have easily rested in the same milk crate as a Simon & Garfunkel vinyl. That could pose a problem for disconnected younger fans, or perhaps songs like “The Shrine/An Argument” could inspire a whole new generation of “Scarborough Fair” listeners. The album is only twelve songs deep; enough to appreciate the band’s direction with just enough room to escape the time warp.
As Fleet Foxes continue to bridge the gap between music from the heart and music from the manufacturer, their beautiful sophomore album will undoubtedly be another group’s reference point 20 years from now. [Kathy Iandoli]
image © Sean Pecknold via Sub Pop