Album of the Week: Fleet Foxes | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Album of the Week: Fleet Foxes

Crack-Up Out Today via Nonesuch

Jun 16, 2017 Fleet Foxes Bookmark and Share

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It’s been six years since Fleet Foxes released an album, and, on Crack-Up, you can hear it. In 2008 and 2011 the Seattle-based band released two records (Fleet Foxes and Helplessness Blues) of straightforward, though nonetheless beautiful, Americana. At the forefront of the band’s sound, and doubtless what made many listeners’ hearts swell, were the vocal harmonies tearing past the unruly beards worn by this group of twenty-something men.

This time around, they’re all grown up. They’ve shaved, for a start, and have lost drummer Josh Tillman to his enigmatic Father John Misty project. Lead songwriter Robin Pecknold headed to New York to study for an undergraduate course at Columbia University. It’s a cliché for an artist to walk away from music, bury their head in a book, and return, eager to be more inventive, more reeling, more experimental. But it’s exactly what has happened.

The result is Fleet Foxes’ third record, Crack-Up. As an album it is sprawling, with each track more challenging than the easy-going folk of Fleet Foxes tracks “Mykonos” or “White Winter Hymnal.” It spawns huge arcs and its mood is both personally reflective and thought-provoking. It is a symphony of an indie record.

The charm of Crack-Up, and indeed of Pecknold’s voice, is the balance between something that is at once close and personally poignant, while also universally familiar. Crack-Up‘s aptitude for cosmic duality is testament to its length. Weighing in at 55 minutes for just 11 tracks, each song is given space to soar, to twist and turn until it gets fired up, or simply until it finds its feet and treads along at ease. It’s pleasing that Fleet Foxes did not shy away from releasing a nine-minute track, with the similarly extravagant title “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” as their comeback single, and more pleasing still, that they have taken the time to fully investigate the scope of each song, before allowing it to peter off into the abyss of the album. It means there is space for a churning level of disarray in this track, before we find the joyous resolution of “I’m reminded of the time it all fell in line on the third of May.”

This space allows each track to prosper unconfined by the necessity for a three-and-a-half-minute cut-off. Much like the wonderful bounce into the waltz of the “If I had an orchard…. ” section on Helplessness Blues’ title track, Pecknold’s songwriting is best when he has the space to dabble with an unexpected string counter melody in “I Should See Memphis,” or the cutting groove of a guitar riff breaking in amongst the subdued piano on “On Another Ocean (January / June).” An intriguing snippet of a saxophone solo ends the track, and the album in its entirety is closed by footsteps-although it’s unclear whether someone is coming or going.

Crack-Up comes after six years of the members of Fleet Foxes living with their eyes and ears wide open.

Read our review of Crack-Up.

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