Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Of Fleet Foxes’ prior material, only the sun-dappled and inspired “Mykonos” managed to hook me on first listen. Apart from that selection off of the Sun Giant EP, Fleet Foxes’ previous releases have been comprised of the type of tunes that reward multiple listens and only slowly reveal themselves in all their intricate beauty.
On Helplessness Blues, “Montezuma” with its layered vocals and gentle lope recalls “White Winter Hymnal,” but as the lyrics suggest (“so now I am older / than my mother and father / when they had their daughter / now what does that say about me?”), Robin Pecknold and company are in a more reflective place following the success of their self-titled full-length. That album blew up big and they’d be forgiven for succumbing to the sophomore slump after non-stop touring, but instead they’ve managed to tap into the same rich vein of folk and classic rock on another dozen songs that seem as if they’ve been with us for years.
“Battery Kinzie” with its magisterial percussion, and the epic eight-minute “The Shrine/An Argument” (with skronking sax!) are particular standouts, but there aren’t really any missteps to contrast those songs with. Burrow in and enjoy. (Sub Pop, www.subpop.com) Michael Elves

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