Fleet Foxes return in dashing fashion with their gorgeous sophomore album, “Helplessness Blues,” which will be released Tuesday.
Stepping up from their self-titled debut released in 2008, the Seattle-based indie-folk troupe is back with a record of euphoric melodies and breathtaking harmonies.
Although not for everyone, the complex and oddly titled “Helplessness Blues” calls for an acquired taste and for the listener to engage with the band’s captivating sound and lyrics.
The album opens with “Montezuma,” a slow, charming track supported by gently strumming guitars that talks about growing old. Similar to tracks from their debut album, the song employs the band’s well-known and predictable, yet classic, harmonies.
The lyrics of “Sim Sala Bim” tell a fantastical story. Frontman Robin Pecknold sings, “Are you off somewhere reciting incantations? Sim sala bim on your tongue.” Its dreamy feel and hazy sequence is eloquent, involving instruments such as the harp and pedal steel guitars.
The title track, “Helplessness Blues,” has catchy rhythms and a powerful chorus that matches the band’s famous folksy anthem, “White Winter Hymnal,” from their debut offering. From dazzling, descriptive lyrics, such as, “I was raised up believing I was somehow unique like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes,” to enchanting sounds, the track is perfected by Pecknold’s vocals, floating high above the music.
The lavish “Lorelai” speaks about a relationship lost with time. Pecknold sings heartfelt lyrics such as, “You, you were like glue, holding each of us together.” Tinged with sadness, the track is bittersweet and has qualities reminiscent of “Quiet Houses” from their first album.
The epic “The Shrine/An Argument,” an eight-minute masterpiece is finished with several different distinct sounds and is one of Fleet Foxes’ best efforts on the album. The song shifts direction six minutes in, complete with wobbly strings and cacophonic sounds, to make it more complex than it already is.
The softly sung “Blue Spotted Tail” questions life and death. Full of unanswered questions, Pecknold wonders, “Why is life made only for to end?” Somber to the last detail, the track is ripe with cynicism and is the type of sound you’d hear from the confines of a courtyard in the medieval ages. Its tone is haunting and has the same feel as “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” from Fleet Foxes’ first record.
The record ends with the dreamy “Grown Ocean,” a cheery and lively arrangement that details the singer’s love of his dream and how he wishes to “attain it.” A signature harmony by Fleet Foxes’ standards, the track is the perfect song for your summer with its enthusiastic tune.
A challenging journey filled with detailed melodies and complex meanings, Fleet Foxes’ second musical venture is not one to miss.