ALBUM REVIEW: “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes

April 27. 2011 | By Karen

Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues
[Sub Pop/Bella Union]

Helplessness Blues could easily fall foul to “difficult second album” syndrome; to follow such a critically acclaimed eponymous debut was no doubt tough, but somehow Robin Pecknold and co. have given us something every bit as poignant as their previous offering whilst developing a style that is so atypical of this Seattle-based band.

The vibe of the record is more orchestrated, yet no less organic than what we have heard before – a mature sound and more variation in style. If the advances in instrumentation don’t get the skeptics on board, the beyond poetic vocal line should.

Album opener, “Montezuma,” utilizes the classic Fleet Foxes harmonies and vaguely medieval lyricism in such a predictable way that some may write it off as generic, but alas, this old world stereotype is what fans are looking for anyway.

Title track “Helplessness Blues” is so close to perfect it’s scary -all the classic Fleet Foxes accoutrements are there combined with a slightly ballad-like feel from the song’s crescendo whilst ‘The Shrine/An Argument” demonstrates the versatility in writing; simple and more mellowed, yet no less memorable.

“Blue Spotted Tail” is more minimal, though every bit as haunting, begging the question – “why is life made only for to end?” Maybe we’ll find out in album number three – great as this record is, no doubt the best is yet to come.

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