Sunday, 29 May 2011

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues or yet another inexact album review


Most songs on Helplessness Blues sway like trees bending before a gathering storm. There is an elegantly organic sense of momentum and meaning conveyed within the earnest and open harmonies and bare and urgent strumming of acoustic guitars.
All of the expected noises are present, you already know what Fleet Foxes sounds like, and it is comforting to hear the same sound grown into new and more reaching songs. Some are saying the arrangements are more ambitious, maybe they are, but it is safe to ignore those kinds of thoughts and just press play.

I adore the echoey drum sound that plonks through the whole album like an asthmatic child running after his friends. And of course the harmonies, and melodies that surge and retreat like waves. But what I’m really loving right about now is an unexpected existential strangled trumpet freak out. I like those but don’t worry there is only one on the whole album and it doesn’t interfere with the gentle posturing of the album as a whole.

You might need to put on your earnestness hat to properly listen to Helplessness Blues, it will help. It is also best to leave a respectable distance between you and your speakers when you are playing this album. If you sit too close you’ll be listening wrong. This album requires space, distance and a kind of pottering activity to be heard at its best. I suggest tidying the kitchen and then baking a cake, with love.

People keep mentioning the beautiful lyrics on this album but so far I have allowed the sound to wash around unsullied by literary critique. That is a rare and important gift. The only other album I listen to like that is Unhalfbricking by Fairport Convention, which led me to miss the point entirely on most of the songs but I don’t really mind. Sometimes an album is just for listening to and its best to bow down and be grateful for the invention of sound.

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