Seattle based folk band Fleet Foxes became a critical favorite in 2008 with the debut of the band's self-titled first full length album. Fleet Foxes garnered rave reviews from critics, gracing the top of many a critic’s best of list and earning them album of the year from Billboard's Critic's Choice. This week saw the release of their much anticipated sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues, and it’s evident upon first listen that what made them huge favorites in 2008 is ever present here.
One of my favorite things about Fleet Foxes is the beautiful veracity and refinement of their lyrics. In Helplessness Blues, the lyrics seem to ask questions and in many ways read like a documentation of the process to finding yourself. In other hands this kind of effort could come off as forced, and even corny. Here it seems to be very exploratory, delving into the issues that plague us as youth leaves with straightforward simplicity. The title track turns out to be a perfect example of this, the song's words saying what eventually comes to hit each of us: that uniqueness is secondary to the desire to be part of something great.
Musically, the album mirrors Fleet Foxes almost exactly, and could have been recorded just weeks after their initial effort, rather than years later. This is by no means a bad thing. While the sound never varies much from song to song, Fleet Foxes excel at making each number distinct from the next, like in the albums first track, "Montezuma," which borrows from the exotic, blending Fleet Foxes usual fare with zithers and tamburas. The record is full of soft textures, the gentle strum and twang of acoustic guitars and their famed harmonies (where Helplessness Blues get its big moments) lending the record’s sound timelessness.