Album Review: Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

The first time I listened this album, I was still at home, driving around town with my best friend the day before he left for college. I would soon fly across the ocean. We were in my dusty car, driving down a wide, empty highway that traced though miles and miles of cornfields. It was over one hundred degrees outside and my shoulders were bare, soaking in the sun that pierced through my car window; my sunglasses were on. This mellow, sublime album was the perfect anthem for cruising on a hot Alabama afternoon, with just enough tinge of sadness to make the inevitable goodbyes that were fast approaching even more poignant.

Montezuma, the first track on Fleet Foxes' latest album, Helplessness Blues, is an ode to the past and past loves, bemoaning “the man what I used to be.” This song flows flawlessly into a folksier, instrumental Bedouin Dress with lyrics that mirror the previous song’s reminiscent tone, but with a distinctive, catchy melody.

The next song carries on with a lovely, more melancholy tune; the rest of the album follows suit. The beautiful folk melodies that defined Fleet Foxes in their self-titled debut album in 2008 remain, now combined with an element of acoustic hipster-ness to the mellow, lilting vocals.This album manages to tie the songs together in a way that makes listening to the entire album in one sitting not repetitive, but appropriate. It seems like a story, weaving in and out of emotions and situations, but always coming back to a sense of searching and introspection that is simultaneously haunting and catchy.

That is not to say that the songs lose their individuality. The album is just as enjoyable shuffled into a full iPod as it is on its own. Though the first Fleet Foxes album was an enjoyable one, it was more disjointed and experimental; in this album, the band has really seemed to find its niche. I give it full accolades and would recommend the album to any lover of folk or indie music, no matter if you’re driving through a hot Alabama summer or feeling the cold wind of the North Sea whip against your face in St Andrews. 

Photo courtesy of Sub Pop Records.

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