Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Fleet Foxes

Helplessness Blues

Sub Pop

May 02, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The delay between Fleet Foxes’ first album and their second was partially due to a self-proclaimed sudden lack of confidence on the part of singer/lyricist/ringleader Robin Pecknold. The foremost quality of the band’s debut was its startling poise, and so there might be some concern that Fleet Foxes’ chief strength might be compromised. Those fears are dashed, joyfully, by the fantastic Helplessness Blues, an extension and deepening of the band’s sound.

Because they emerged sounding so full, with harmonies to make ‘60s and ‘70s folkies proud, it’s hard to conceive of how the band could grow. Yet, on Helplessness Blues, they have grown, not like a weed overnight, but like a creeping vine, in ways barely perceptible. Helplessness Blues puts more of an emphasis on country, with fiddles dotting “Bedouin Dress” and slide guitars popping up on a number of songs. There’s some genuine menace to “The Shrine / An Argument,” an emotion that’s not found on Fleet Foxes despite lyrics that might warrant it. Broadening the emotional spectrum further is Pecknold’s vocals, which explode into an uncontrolled yelp, only to be answered by some honeyed harmonies. Throughout, the musicianship is more evident and the members (Josh Tillman and Morgan Henderson) added since recording the debut don’t overwhelm the sound or make the music too busy: Helplessness Blues finds Fleet Foxes sharper and more focused than before. In fact, Tillman’s intuitive drumming keeps the band on solid footing through such sweeping epics as “Lorelai.” Ingenious producer Phil Ek also keeps everything in its proper place.

Whatever Pecknold went through as a writer, he’s emerged stronger for it. His lyrics, which are a great point of emphasis because they’re so clear-voiced and audible, arelike the bandinfallible in their earnestness. Fleet Foxes write about earthen thingsdust and dirtand the fears and failings of lost time. “Oh man/what I used to be,” Pecknold sings on “Montezuma.” “Now/I can see how/We were like dust on the window,” he croons during “Lorelai,” and the lyrics’ gently unfurling phrasing is a specialty of his, and works hand-in-hand with the way the harmonies twist around his voice.

Fleet Foxes make all of this sound easy and organic, as if they sat down on someone’s porch and Helplessness Blues flowed out of them. Far from that folksy, laid-back image, Helplessness Blues confirms Fleet Foxes’ place as one of the most exacting, creative, and straight-up best bands making music in 2011. (www.fleetfoxes.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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May 2nd 2011


May 5th 2011

Nice review. Here’s another take:


“You may need to spend significant time questioning and even disliking Helplessness Blues before it reveals its gifts to you, but given that its creation is forever connected with human suffering, that price is only fitting.”

September 24th 2012

Liebe Leser,Natfcrlich gibt es auch in diesem Monat noch ein paar weterie hf6renswerte Neuerscheinungen.The Horror The Horror   WildernessMotorpsycho   Roadwork Vol. IV   Intrepid SkronkThe Mountain Goats   All Eternals DeckViel Spadf mit den Subsonic Favoriten!//@indiependant.

September 24th 2012

About the AuthorI’m just a guy who’s mother used to play music connatstly when I was as a child.  I was exposed to a slew of 40’s & 50’s acts like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Bill Haley & The Comets, Chuck Berry, Danny & The Juniors and countless one hit wonder bands.  Add in your Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Eddie Fisher with scores of popular soundtracks like Zorba The Greek and West Side Story and it’s no wonder I became a music fiend.  Thanks Mom.  My first 45 RPM was The Letter by The Boxtops, but I went on to own a pretty decent 45 collection until I got the brainiac idea to sell it to the neighbors so I could buy baseball cards.  Goodbye priceless Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, and Animals collector’s items.  Hello seven copies of backup catchers.  I’ve been collecting since 1967 or so.  Be it eight track tapes, cassettes, 45’s, LP’s, CDs, MP3’s…even VHS or DVD copies of live performances; I’ve been going at it quite a while.  When I was asked to contribute to this site I didn’t have to be asked twice.  I’m having a ball…