Fleet Foxes: Shore (ANTI-) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020  

Fleet Foxes

Shore

ANTI-

Sep 28, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The release of Fleet Foxes’ fourth album, Shore, was timed to coincide precisely with the autumnal equinox (9:31 a.m. Eastern Time on September 22). With all that this year has brought to bear, the occasion of the surprise release of the lauded folk rock band’s latest album seemed as good as any for a turn in our collective fortunes. Unfortunately, the plague upon the land did not magically disappear upon the album’s release any more so than it did in time for Easter, as hopers had hoped early in the pandemic. In fact, the album release was paired with the news of America’s 200,000th COVID-19 related death.  

Sobering to be sure, but band leader Robin Pecknold provides a much needed and simple comfort when a boost was called for. Where Fleet Foxes’ 2017 album Crack-Up was no doubt beautiful and bracing, it was also as carefully calculated as the water borne navigations that inspired parts of it. Shore is the sound of unlikely voices brought magically together, lyrics that pluck more at the heart than the intellect, and an artist driven by the innate need to create and in awe of his surroundings. After coy allusions to put music aside over the years, Pecknold now sees his gift as the true path forward.    

Picking up where Crack-Up left off, Pecknold and friends (none of his core band are on board here) take us on a journey across land. In a nod to his new accompanists, Pecknold’s is not even the first voice you hear. Instagram find, Uwade Akhere takes us ashore on the aptly titled “Wading in Waist-High Water,” with the song’s gentle pace quickening in its final scramble. A newfound humility and willingness to share the spotlight continues throughout the album. The tribute to musicians lost, “Sunblind,” even has Pecknold declaring “I’m overmatched.” And on the sunny hook-and-groove filled “Young Man’s Game,” he shares the stage with Hamilton Leithauser’s daughters who have become accustomed to playing the role of upstagers.    

Some of Shore’s strongest moments are its most evidently pop inspired ones. Early album highlight, and the one most likely to get stuck in one’s head, “Can I Believe You,” runs an anthemic course with massed choruses and a countervailing thrum and thump. The drums at the hands of Grizzly Bear’s Christopher Bear, who appears over most of the course of the album.  And though on the breezier side, “A Long Way Past the Past” has a New Pornographers feel for melody and structure.

Though most of Shore has the feeling of individual songs written and pieced together, the closing five songs could easily exist as its own cohesive EP. In an album laced by tributes and outside contributions, the span from “Quiet Air / Gioia” to the closing title track suit the living spirit of Brian Wilson that is invoked at the start of “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman.” Wilson’s slow count out mixed with current day engineer Beatriz Artola’s faster one points to the build of layers and differing tempos that characterize the closing suite of songs. “Going-to-the-Sun Road” echoes the subtle complexity of The Beach Boys’ “Surf’s Up.” While the interlocking machinations of “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman” at the hands of Bear’s musical partner, Daniel Rossen, provide an extended period of compositional flex.              

At its end, and with all of its different pathways and partners, Pecknold and Akhere meet on the title song and bask in the afterglow of the ended day. The strong voiced Pecknold meets Akhere at her softer-voiced mark and it makes for a fitting close to an album where much is conceded to others, both living and dead. Water and sky have their endless allure, but in spite of human failures and foibles it’s to the terra firma where Pecknold and all of us must return and place our fates. For this acknowledgment, Shore turns out to be both vibrant and vital. Not vital in the essential sense, but filled with humanity at its healthiest—full of voice, sure of foot, aided by friends and strangers. (www.fleetfoxes.co)  

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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