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  • Helplessness Blues








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Fleet Foxes

    Related Artists - Beach Boys, Simon And Garfunkel, The Bees
    Related Genres - Alternative

    Fleet Foxes ( 2008 )
    Sun It Rises / White Winter Hymnal / Ragged Wood / Tiger Mountain Peasant Song / Quiet Houses / He Doesn't Know Why / Heard Them Stirring / Your Protector / Meadowlarks / Blue Ridge Mountains / Oliver James

    At a time when music becomes ever more meaningless and album artists a thing of the past, 'Fleet Foxes' arrive sounding like Brian Wilson meets David Crosby. Any band that tries to mix those two guys has to be applauded, really. We have fairly simple acoustic lines, more complex and pretty electric lines all topped off with two or three part vocal harmonies. Suffice to say 'Quiet Houses', although not their best song, mixes in 'Smile' like instrumental breaks with Crosby, Stills and Nash. 'Oliver James', although not their best song, opens like a man singing on the mountains before mysteriously sounding, well, mysterious. I'm struggling to describe this, aren't I? Some of the songs, although sounding nothing like them, remind me of Free Design in their apparent simplicity and naiveity.

    We've done a couple of good songs that aren't necessarily Fleet Foxes best, so how about a one that is? Well, again reminding me weirdly of Free Design is the brilliant 'White Winter Hymnal', an exceptional song with superb backing vocals right off in the distance, as if someone is singing in church. The album as a whole has this natural echo and i'd like to know how said sound was acheived. 'Ragged Wood' is a highlight on an album of highs and deserves to be a hit single. It's accessible without changing any of the Fleet Foxes elements - so the harmonies, the folky guitars, the subtle rhythm section, the great lyrics - all are present and correct.

    Fleet Foxes seem somewhat out of time, they don't connect to anything the modern world has to give us, yet that’s a great thing to be able to do. Some sleighbells? Superb backing vocals? Mystery and earthiness, reconnecting the listener to a simpler past they never even knew they wanted.

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    Readers Comments

    t.peacock bristol
    gotta be honest, i find them overhyped, dull and the perfect band for the kinda person who hangs on every word Pitchfork says...I listened to them after all the hype surrounding them especially after SXSW and just thought they were dull...! But hey, each to their own, keep up the work! :)

    GAZZA Edinburgh
    I agree with your rating ,and this is my favourite album of last year . The emphasis here is on harmony and that makes it stand out a bit from what everyone else is doing at the moment . I can hear echoes of "smile" era beach boys, Crosby and nash and simon and garfunkel but the songs themselves sound as old as the hills but melodious in the extreme . The album gets better with each listen but my favourites are "my protector" which is like the soundtrack to a non existant cowboy film , "blue ridge mountains" and "winter hymnal" which are both joyous and melancholy but uber catchy . despite the authentic 60s rock echo plastered over the songs they all bare very much a pop sensibility . This is gonna sound great on these upcoming frosty mornings .

    TAD Port Orchard, USA.
    Adrian: Great site! On Fleet Foxes, U nailed it! I was reminded of Smile-era Beach Boys crossed w/ early-60's folk music. Great stuff! 4 me, the best track is "Blue Ridge Mountains," but it's all pretty great, & some tracks have that silly, lighter-than-air quality of Brian Wilson's middle period. Only 1 I didn't care 4 was "Oliver James," sorta a sung obituary, I think. These guys R really something, & I'm not saying that just cos they're only 30 miles away across Puget Sound from me.... NEway, great site. I'll B reading U more. Oh, & U missed the 2 best tracks on Caravan's BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S -- "Can You Hear Me?" has a great Pye Hastings vocal & a nice soaring keyboard line; "All the Way" is a GORGEOUS love song, 1 of the best things the later version of the band ever did. -- Thanx!

    Rich Wilson Portsmouth, UK
    I agreed completely with the first commenter... until my fifth listen. Then it started to grow on me. Every additional listen has continued this and I now have warmed to it massively. White Winter Hymnal and Oliver James were the first to sink their claws into my brainbox and absolutely magnificent tracks. Now I'm agreeing with Adrian.

    Andrew Taylor Kent, UK
    Hype is a dangerous thing. It can damage, over-shadow and promote prejudice. Alex Turner's statement of "Dont Believe the hype!" on the video to "I bet you look good on the Dance Floor" is the perfect example of this. A creditable band with a clever songwriter, yet of course the "next big thing" is the next thing to be attacked and condemned to over-hyped or too "over-ground" status. I must admit I try and stay clear of such musical hysteria, but by doing so its easy to pass by a true innovator and progressive band such as the Fleet Foxes. My own failings caused me to only recently buy the album. I like to wait a couple of years for the hype to die down, so I can judge on nothing but my own perception. However, I can honestly say I wasted two years, and for what? Fear of getting swept away in the masses?? Sometimes you should let yourself be rolled around and sucked in, just be selective! Were the Beatles over-hyped? Or Dylan? Of course they were, but it takes no! thing from their importance and undeniable genius. Sure if you listen you to half a single its easy to throw them in the same box as the pulped Mumford And Sons or James “Dylan” Morrison. But for me they deserve more than that. In reality, they haven’t created a new sound or a revolutionary trend for others to follow, instead they present a very complete album. Its so emotive and fluid, a real day-dream maker! Ironically the album suggests to not judge records by scores or high regards within the media, but by personal reaction alone.


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    Helplessness Blues 9 ( 2011 )
    Montezuma / Bedouin Dress / Sim Sala Bim / Battery Kinzie / The Plains-Bitter Dancer / Helplessness Blues / The Cascades / Lorelai / Someone You'd Admire / The Shrine-An Argument / Blue-Spotted Tail / Grown Ocean

    The harmonic blend Fleet Foxes demonstrated throughout their 'Sun Giant' EP was immense. The songs came from another time - without anybody being able to pinpoint what time it was, exactly. Their debut LP was recorded before the 'Sun Giant' EP and demonstrated the continued growth of the band, eg, it wasn't quite as good. 'Helplessness Blues' has a bunch of songs that are as good, maybe one or two that are even better. “If I had an orchard, I’d work ’til I’m sore.” Acoustic guitars, complicated and lovely harmonies and a special magic born of the countryside. Not afraid to go acapella when the mood takes them, 'Fleet Foxes' haven't really reinvented themselves as much as refined themselves. I'm still not sure they have done what I wanted them to, eg, a whole albums worth of tracks as magical as those contained on the 'Sun Giant' EP but they got that little bit closer. Acoustic American folk decorates several tracks, Simon and Garfunkel and Neil Young pop up elsewhere as The lazy Beach Boys comparison is harder to make this time around - I adore them, but don't mind that. Throughout the title track, Fleet Foxes really do find their own place, so much so it's hard to imagine them ever being better than this. Acoustic switches to those delicate, yet booming melodic drums and the song has three distinct parts. It's a song from a dream - you only imagined music could be this good.

    'The Shine-An Argument' is an ambitious eight minute long track in multiple parts that begins with impassioned singing, acoustic guitar and then pretty embellishments. Lovely harmonies filled with echo as they try and create (and succeed) in creating a natural sound. Think Beach Boys circa 'Holland' or Simon and Garfunkel circa 'Bookends' Surely, bands aren't even *allowed* to sound like this any more? It's music where you can hear everything yet still can't quite conceive how it came into being. The wayward Jazz trumpet that pipes up near the ending of the track adds welcome texture - Fleet Foxes don't really do dischord, so it's nice to near something like this. The opening 'Montezuma' is every bit as good as those EP tracks, the lyrics are easy and evocative and the harmonies the best in the land - hymnal and spiritual and evoking the earth. 'Battery Kinzie' is the second track from the album to receive radio-play here in the UK and whilst it would have been nice if people had realised what The Fleet Foxes had when 'Sun Giant' appeared, it's better late than never. Really, this is a frequently lovely album that proves Fleet Foxes can exist outside of the apparent direction indie/alternative music seems to be going these days. We can have someone that sounds different and thank god for that.

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    this page last updated 29/05/11


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