Fleet Foxes have been giving us tastes of greatness these past few months. Single releases, album artwork, interviews describing the lengthy progress of creating their second album (recording one in full only to find that it wasn’t working, scratching it, and starting over)… so when their second album Helplessness Blues leaked a few weeks back, it wasn’t exactly surprising that it was amazing.
But still. The incredible, swelling sound of Helplessness Blues is not something to take lightly — not after you’ve listened to it once, twice, three times. Robin Pecknold, the bearded bard behind Fleet Foxes’s harmony-driven folk sound, infuses the rainy grey of their Seattle hometown in every song. But he does it with such an ear for simple musical beauty that the result is an album that contains the same beauty of the bands’ self-titled debut with a new level of added nuance.
How can Pecknold infuse tragedy with such joy? In “Montezuma,” one of the previously released singles, he reflects on loneliness on a deathbed, “I wonder if I’ll see any faces above me, or just cracks in the ceiling.” Yet his voice rings out, the sound ebullient and rich, creating a tapestry of emotional responses.
Much of the album has this effect, and the impact deepens with every listen. These songs, particularly as a group, are as timeless as the Celtic and mariner folk that inspires them. And upon it’s official release, it’s worth restating: Helplessness Blues may well be one of the best albums released this year.
For another taste, check out the Song of the Day we posted back in February.