Seattle sound’s second coming
HELPLESSNESS Blues is the shot in the arm modern music needs.
In the vast sea of sampled, tweaked, remixed, ripped off, horrible, cringeworthy pop music – ( yes, I am looking forward to Lady Gaga’s new album) – Fleet Foxes have delivered an album that’s unlikely to cross over commercially but really does deserve to do so.
Its disarming beauty comes at a slow, contemplative pace. The record’s arrangements are ambitious, while the lyrics come off idealistic and youthful.
Poetic singer Robin Pecknold shines brightly. On Montezuma, an echoing guitar flows gently around soft harmonies and Pecknold’s honey-dipped vocal cords.
Solid grooves and hearty bass provide an anchor for all the album’s fingerpicking guitar and wistful melodies.
Helplessness Blues is a skilful combination of dusty folk, vintage psychedelic pop and Crosby Stills and Nash-esque Americana.
Far from just another indie-folk-rock record, the album delves deep into a world of wacky instruments. Its attention to detail is incredible and not once does a Moog, tambura or zither take away from the sophisticated, triumphant authenticity of this Seattle-based sextet’s second record.
There’s also clarinet, wood flute, a music box, pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, Tibetan singing bowls and vibraphone. But oddly no kitchen sink.
The Shrine/ An Argument is a prime example of their all-or-nothing songwriting style, with crazy, rhythmic timing shifts that come as a surprise every time. It’s a long song but it has many highlights, none more brilliant than the cacophony of brass that completely freaked me out at the finish.
The band conjures up a mystical vibe on The Cascade, another high point on an album that’s full of them.
On the title track, they channel Simon and Garfunkel with a lofty chorus.
While Battery Kinzie clocks in at under three minutes, it feels a lot longer – in a good way – with its ambition and dynamic style.
Grown Ocean has got the blues in a big bad way. It’s a sad, sad song highlighted by a weeping slide guitar.
One of the prevailing themes of the album is the struggle between who you