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Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Cover Artwork)

Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness BluesHelplessness Blues (2011)
Sub Pop Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: SpookySpooky
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With an absolutely incredible self-titled debut in 2008, listeners pined for more when the last track ended, hoping another solid release would soon follow from Fleet Foxes. Now we've been presented three years later with Helplessness Blues, a stripped-down vision from vocalist/guitarist Robin Peckn.
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With an absolutely incredible self-titled debut in 2008, listeners pined for more when the last track ended, hoping another solid release would soon follow from Fleet Foxes. Now we've been presented three years later with Helplessness Blues, a stripped-down vision from vocalist/guitarist Robin Pecknold who stated in 2009 that he'd like to record the album in one take, similar to Van Morrison's legendary Astral Weeks (1968) but that it would be "less poppy" and "less upbeat." The result is astounding: 12 songs of folksy goodness from a band seriously on top of their game.

The first track, "Montezuma" starts in a reflective fashion typical of the band. "So now I am older than my mother and father, when they had their daughter; now what does that say about me?" The tune starts with a quiet guitar only, before Pecknold's swelling vocals and the group's harmonies take over. He laments later on, "Oh man what I used to be"–a sad song and an excellent opener.

This album has some damn zingers on it. "Sim Sala Bim", for one, has to be one of the greatest songs written by the band. The way the lyrics and melody are presented is simply beautiful, especially during the chorus harmonies. These guys really shine here, as the song goes from a quiet love song to a fast-paced acoustic showdown at the end, complete with mandolin.

I would be remiss to neglect just a few others on here: "Lorelai" and the final track "Grown Ocean". The first has one hell of an earworm for a melody, something not uncommon for this particular band. The song chugs right along to lyrics like "I was old news to you then," and the wistful "So, guess I got old, I was like trash on the sidewalk." It's cheerful, with a few self-deprecating lyrics, reflecting on life's many pratfalls.

The album ends with "Grown Ocean", one of my all-time favorites by the band. I recently watched the music video, which goes perfectly with the tune. The accompanying video of the band on tour, recording and having the time of their lives hits hard and has the ability to make a person wonder where their lives are headed. Some of the most heartbreaking, poignant lyrics come from this one, such as "I know someday the smoke will all burn off, all these voices I'll someday have turned off." Also worth noting is the ever-present harmonies from bandmates J. Tillman and guitarist Christian Wargo, this track featuring some of their best.

This is one hell of an album. Fleet Foxes' 2008 debut was nothing to sneeze at, but this just might top it. These guys are truly talented musicians and some of their most inspired and challenging work can be found on Helplessness Blues. While writing and recording supposedly caused a lot of turmoil around the band due to its meticulous nature, it shows throughout each track of rich, "woodsman-like" vocals accompanied by outstanding harmonies and guitar work. In all, Fleet Foxes have once again proven themselves as indie folk giants capable of taking on an epic followup. A must-have.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
breakfastsandwiches (May 21, 2011)

can I get a bit more reverb on everything - it's not easy being the next Brian Wilson and "sounding" like the beach boys

inagreendase (May 18, 2011)

"""Didn't like the first record so I assume I won't like this either."""

Same, but the title track from this is great. They're clearly pillaging the same influence pool as Good Old War, so now they have my interest. Haven't heard the LP in full quite yet.

yummygrass (May 18, 2011)

Nice follow-up to their debut. The "long" songs are surely the best. And Blue Spotted Tail is really pretty. I don't think they are ever going to top their first album, like Vampire Weekend. Also, honestly after My Morning Jacket's new album, I kinda forgot about this. Ahaha.

r3vengetherapy (May 18, 2011)

Let me apologize in advance if it seems I'm being too negative! I liked the review.

Just an FYI, calling a song one of your "all-time favorites" by a band who only has two albums really cheapens the impact of that phrase. Also, there's nothing wrong with writing a review and stating that you love the band, but this review is hard to take seriously even though it's written decently.

The first record bored me to tears, and I tried so hard to like it. Maybe I'll try this one.

holy_balls (May 17, 2011)

this is my AOTY for sure.

drunkwithpower (May 17, 2011)

yawn

TheMike (May 17, 2011)

I was disappointed at first, but grew to like it more than the first album. Album of the year so far.

The latter half of the title track is divine.

wearestillalive (May 17, 2011)

Didn't like the first record so I assume I won't like this either.

danperrone (May 17, 2011)

i've been meaning to listen to this (the debut was good) but i just can't bring myself to put it on in spring/summer. it needs to be at least late september to fully enjoy it.

thegreatestmanalive (May 17, 2011)

I still have trouble believing morang henderson is in this band now

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