Friday, May 6, 2011

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues REVIEW

The sophomore album from Fleet Foxes has been on every one's radar since the band released the title track single as a free download a few months back. On their self-titled debut album that was released back in 2008 they instantly became the little Indie Band that could. Now with the release of Helplessness Blues the band has blown up and become a mainstream indie act.

Helplessness Blues has also been leaked across the Internet for over a month now - and me being the good guy that I am I didn't even listen to this album until its proper release date of May 3rd. I just get too much joy from going to the local Record Shop and picking up a physical copy of the album, and then putting the CD in the player and listening to it the first time from start to finish. Lead Singer Robin Peckhold says this about the new album...

..."Musically it leans on country music a little bit more, in the slide guitar of songs like “Grown Ocean” and “Bedouin Dress” or “Helplessness Blues.” We used a number of new instruments including the 12-string guitar, the hammered dulcimer, zither, upright bass, wood flute, tympani, Moog synthesizer, the tamboura, the fiddle, the marxophone, clarinet, the music box, pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, Tibetan singing bowls, vibraphone, along with more traditional band instrumentation."

As you can see Fleet Foxes are not shy when it comes to using a variety of musical instruments in their songs. All those instruments mixed with Peckhold's vocals and you have something that is clearly special. On the first two tracks "Montezuma' and 'Bedouin Dress' you get a sense at how the album is going to fall into place and you hear that classy indie sound with all the instruments mixed with fantastic lyrics. You get a little more feeling that this albums takes a turn to a slight country/folk sound with 'Sim Sala Bim' as it almost turns into a partial hoedown jam at the end of the song.

'Battery Kinzie' is a refreshing indie boomer that mixes in the piano sounds creating a perfect all around song. 'The Plains/Bitter Dancer' is a slower number which matches it lyrics. Then comes the title track 'Helplessness Blues' which has been out for a few months and yet every time you hear it - it continues to sound like it is the first time you heard it. This is the song that teased us for a few months with its awesomeness and begged us to want to hear the rest of the album.

'The Cascades' is a combination of some lovely string noises that really bring the song to life with no vocals even needed. 'Lorelai' feels like the most sincere song on the entire album with its vocals stealing the show. 'Someone You'd Admire' has to be my favourite track next to the title track. It has a peaceful, acoustic feel that creates a gorgeous melody that you want to continue past the 2:29 song length. If there was any song that I have wanted to last longer in 2011 this would be the song. 'The Shrine/Argument' is next in line and it is almost opposite of the song before going on for 8+ minutes. The songs tempo goes up and down throughout its length almost giving a album feel to the song, it itself is a work of art.

The last couple of songs are 'Blue Spotted Tail' and the familiar "Grown Ocean' that we have heard as well. They both offer decent closure to the album and put a smile on your face when the album is over. The sounds on all the tracks are really clean and crisp - something you would never realize with the amount of instruments being used. In conclusion you have to say that Fleet Foxes truly know how to release an album Indie Style. This will go down as a highlight album in the year 2011 on alot of peoples albums of the year. I know at FPT it is in the running for top album.

Helplessness Blues Track Listing:
01. Montezuma 3:37
02. Bedouin Dress 4:29
03. Sim Sala Bim 3:14
04. Battery Kinzie 2:49
05. The Plains / Bitter Dancer 5:53
06. Helplessness Blues 5:03
07. The Cascades 2:07
08. Lorelai 4:24
09. Someone You'd Admire 2:29
10. The Shrine / An Argument 8:07
11. Blue Spotted Tail 3:05
12. Grown Ocean 4:36

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues by subpop

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