“Helplessness Blues” – Fleet Foxes
There’s this moment, and it generally happens in the early hours. Standing in a line at a fast food restaurant amidst a crowd of bug-eyed strays for what seems like hours to come out clutching a bag of grease with regret in your eyes. Let’s feel lucky that the wait for the new Fleet Foxes LP Helplessness Blues is a wait that makes the last few years feel like a passing thought.
There are bands that attempt to steer away from being pigeonholed by changing there sound dramatically following a break in releases. It’s been three long years and fans waiting with bated breath were on their last reserves of oxygen. Helplessness Blues delivers however and is truly a breath of fresh air as, and to the relief of die-hards I’m sure, the band have not deviated far from the original vibe that attracted their audience in the first place. Everything just seems; fuller.
The Foxes have kept their sweeping folk sound, their harmonies remain as blissfully effortless and they still don’t sound entirely like they belong in the twenty first century and rather at a renaissance fair. Added to the arsenal, however, are a slew of violins and, I’m pretty sure there is such a thing, a tambourine virtuoso who features quite regularly. These may seem like obvious additions and not significantly sound-altering ones and you would be half right. But even though they stay true to their beginnings it’s evident that they are maturing as a recording group.
It would be easy to rant and rave about how great every track is although if there is one track that sums up how far this band have come in the three year gap it’s the eight and a half minute epic The Shrine/An Argument. Still maintaining the choral harmonies and folk stylings of previous works the band branches out, Robin Pecknold (the bands’ lead vocalist) even allows his voice to crack and yelp and then revert back to bell-like quality in the refrain. It’s in the apex of The Shrine that the change can really be heard when orchestrated violin patterns trill over rattling snares and a discordant clarinet solo. A sound to behold.
Whether it’s a returning listener or someone merely taking a passing interest Helplessness Blues will captivate without fail and, upon repeat listening, you can hear there will only be more exploration from Fleet Foxes in the future. Hopefully no one has to wait as long next time. Because there’s only so much breath one person can hold.
– Jonty Thompson