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Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues
Sub Pop/Bella Union
It’s hard to believe that frontman/songwriter Robin Pecknold is only 24 years old and that Fleet Foxes has only been a band since 2006. Even on their self-titled debut, the Seattle musicians sounded as if they stumbled out of Laurel Canyon, Calif. fully matured after a night of partying with CSN&Y, Fairport Convention and Brian Wilson. Full of the same heavenly harmonies and pastoral old-world musical accompaniment that made Fleet Foxes the premier baroque-folk band on the scene, Helpless Blues hears Pecknold and company push further into the unknown and return with an eight-minute, three-section epic called “The Shrine/An Argument.” Shifting from sweet vocals and images of love in an apple orchard to ominous, driving folk-rock with Pecknold singing about “waking up to terrible sunlight,” the song eventually breaks and the listener is left clinging to an acoustic guitar. Pecknold’s voice rises from the wreckage and the whole thing devolves into squeaking horns and abstract noise. This is as heavy and dynamic as the Fleet Foxes has ever been, adding an entirely new dimension to its sound. Helplessness Blues is another soaring achievement, bound for many year-end lists, but its greatest accomplishment might be its ability to feel so deeply connected with the past while remaining totally current.
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