Fleet Foxes #2

Oh! the troubled SECOND album, ….many have done horrible, many ok, and a couple of masterpieces… (but that’s a post for another day…)

So the fleetest of foxes come to this challenging phase of their  dream-like career, and what do they make,…a near-masterpiece….

I think it’s hard to NOT like the Fleet Foxes first (full length) album (unless you’re some math-rock-doad-with-a-hard-on-for-harmony-and-beauty), they made it all sound so easy, and pretty.   So they decide to up the ante with stranger instruments, arrangements and subject matter.  I read recently (in Spin) that the rest of the band had to stop Robin
Pecknold from continually working on the album.  They chose a good time to stop.
Things go a little strange, but not enough to have that horrible “look-at-how-arty-we-can-be-when-making-our-second-album“ vibe…..

There’s so many moments where things could go wrong.  The quiet, subdued opening salvo of Sim Sala Bim and the subsequent  acoustic-bang-outs that follow could have
quickly gone into a much lamer (and longer) territory in someone else’s hands.  I think the title cut is the true standout of the album, where the singer wishes to
be “like the man on the screen”, and it’s refrain of craftsmanship: “If I had
an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore…..”

{Matter of point}: there are actually quite a few apple references on the Helplessness Blues. Hmm……

“the Shrine/An Agrument” is the longest, and perhaps most prog-iest cut on the record.  But again, the parts make sense amongst each other and it doesn’t come off  like acoustic Yes or something…..(though the attempted free-jazz ending sounds like bullfrogs mating, but you know, I have CD’s of just that sort of thing…..)

The album ends with two palette-cleansing (sorta-what-you-expected) cuts that send you out with good feeling…..and that’s what so great about it: the good parts of Fleet Foxes sound are still very much intact, just stretched in parts but so pleasantly surprising, which is a very solid game plan for a band’s dreaded SECOND album……

(Disclaimer: I’ve listened to Helplessness Blues about 6 times so far, which is not so much for me, it’s certainly a grower…….)

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