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Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues‎ [2011]

Fleet Foxes are one of those bands that arrived so fully formed that it was hard to imagine where they’d take their sound next, and judging by the long gap between their debut LP and the upcoming Helplessness Blues, it seems the group may have struggled with that notion some as well. The eponymous lead single from the record finds them honing their intricate baroque folk while at the same time trying out a more straightforward, lyrical approach. The most notable difference between “Helplessness Blues” and the Sun Giant/Fleet Foxes material is that frontman Robin Pecknold’s words and vocals are front and center, high in the mix. Over a surging acoustic instrumental, he sings about existential fear (“What’s my name? What’s my station? Oh, just tell me what I should do”) in a hopeful and earnest way. Some will probably call these lyrics hokey, but they’re delivered with such sincerity (and vocal warmth) that I can’t help but go along for the ride. The song is essentially two halves, and around the three-minute mark, the whole band appears, and it bursts into a more reverberant, orchestral section that just shimmers. It’s here where you remember how great these guys sound when they’re firing on all cylinders, and it’s easy to think there could be more of this kind of lovely sprawl on the record’s other tracks. -pitchfork

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