A Fine Fleet of Foxes indeed

14 Dec

Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues has the folk enthusiast in me cavorting around a metaphysical campfire in an imaginary forest somewhere in amongst my viscera.

This five-year-old band (that is, the band has been officially active for about five years. It is not comprised of five-year-olds. That would be mad.) presents a blend of baroque-inspired indie-folk-rock heavy with string instrumental, intricately-picked acoustic guitar-work, innovative percussion, chordal vocal harmonies and the leading vocals of Robin Pecknold, which, as well as sounding similar to those of Bob Dylan, reflect a subtle but nonetheless obvious Dylan influence in the melodies they depict.

Channeling soulful, relatable lyrics and sterling instrumental work is a mastery of volume and tempo dynamics extremely impressive for a band only releasing their second studio album. Helplessness Blues makes sudden switches from quiet, intimate moments to belted-out, multi-instrumental gallivants which create the feeling of having a private, contemplative moment alone in a room suddenly put into song by the band of enthusiastic musicians who have been hiding in the closet all the while. Whilst this  (repeated) occurence could easily have shocked or disgruntled listeners, Fleet Foxes have managed to blend together their drastic dynamic differences smoothly enough to flow (albeit quickly) rather than jolt, resulting in a musical experience that is exciting much rather than jarring. (“Sim Sala Bim” is a prime example of this amazing dynamic-phenomenon.)

On the other end of the “dynamics” scale, “Blue Spotted Tail” is a beautiful, bewildered ballad featuring only guitar and Pecknold’s vocals all the way through… although it fades straight into the very-much-louder “Grown Ocean”, which is the closest thing to straight rock you’re going to get from Helplessness Blues (good grief, it even has a “1-2-1-2-3-4” drumstick count-in)(Those count-ins are easily one of the most exciting things in generic pop-rock, by the way.) This track, in contrast with “Blue Spotted Tail”, is fast-paced and heavily underlined by a solid bass-pedal beat most of the way through, until it ends with 30 seconds of bare two-part vocal harmony with wind-chimes in the background.

The album’s title derives from a lyric in its title track (“Helplessness Blues”), which questions our society’s notions of careerism and the function of personal individuality within a pyramid structure of corporate servitude.

Helplessness Blues is a perfected collection of raw, real-sounding recordings which are powerful for their artful piecing-together. The album is an absolute triumph to the Baroque-Inspired Indie-Folk-Rock genre.

~

Post Scriptum: For anyone religiously reading these posts: yes, I am still two posts behind. I was going to catch up today, but instead continued to feel about as sickened as a hipster in a franchise store. More reviews are going to have to wait until I no longer feel like the rainforest that is my immune system is being nommed by tiny, tiny fuel corporations. Thank-you and good night.

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