REVIEW: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Making contemporary folk music the way it should be. This isn’t a re-hash of anything they’ve done before, it’s Fleet Foxes returning on top form. Making music that is memorable, exciting, invigorating. Hearing Pecknold’s vocals again feels like a breath of fresh air and a reminder why so many fell in love with them in the first place. As if hearing “Helplessness Blues” a month or so ago hadn’t already done that.

Pitchfork have already called this album “a triumphant follow-up to a blockbuster debut.” And with songs like “Bedouin Dress” and “Lorelai”, you’ll be absorbed with the record as soon as that vinyl starts spinning. There’s “Battery Kinzie”, which has some of the traits that make Mumford & Sons songs popular, a distinct sense of the grandiose amongst them, but packaged in a way that actually sounds great. The prior-mentioned “Helplessness Blues” is also a heavy-hitter, sounding as vital as ever and sitting well against the other tracks on the album.

The highlight of the record though is manifest in “The Shrine/An Argument” an eight minute epic of a song so invigorating and involving that you’ll feel alongside Pecknold in those frenzied lyrical shouts. A pain and anger apparent in the heartbreak, a story of love and lost that you can really feel and identify with as the song goes through the motions. It’s probably their best song to date, fully capturing a break-up’s tortuous unfolding. And despite coming three quarters of the way through the tracklisting, it feels like a strong centrepiece for an album full of killer material.

Helplessness Blues is a triumph, a follow-up album that not only matches a more than impressive debut, but goes on to better it. Seriously. As much as I enjoyed the contemporary folk stylings of their self-titled debut, Pecknold and his bandmates have made here an album that is even more exciting and inviting. The band sound as fresh as when they emerged in 2008, cementing their position amongst the greatest bands from the last decade.

DOWNLOAD/STREAM: “Blue Spotted Tail” Live For BBC 6Music ’09 + “The Shrine/An Argument” Maida Vale Session.
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