Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Rating: ★★★★★

When Fleet Foxes released their self-titled debut back in 2008, they took the musical world by storm with their folksy, and harmony flooded jams. So when they announced that they would be releasing their sophomore album, much anticipation grew for what this cherished band would do next. Could they potentially follow up their flawless debut with something even better? Or would Helplessness Blues be forever dwarfed in a shadow of comparisons to the album that won you over to the Fleet Foxes side in the first place? Based on my rating, it should be pretty easy to tell where I stand.

This album may be a step in a different direction for this band, but it certainly is the right one. “Montezuma” begins with delicate guitar plucking and the almost too perfectly sweet vocals of Robin Pecknold, joined quickly by the harmonies of the rest of the band, bathing you in warmth. For Fleet Foxes, this is probably the perfect opening song; the simplicity paired with the introduction to a new sound for makes it rightly placed. Whereas their last album relied most heavily on the vocal aspects, it seems as though the instrumentation has become a stronger force on the same level as that as the vocals. This allows for Fleet Foxes to step into that tender climate of being far enough away from their old stuff, but nowhere near unrecognizable.

The rest of the album follows suit in a way that only this band could; you’ll be hard pressed to find a song that you don’t love. On the first half of the album, you have soft at first then earthquake strength of “Sim Sala Bim,” only to be outdone by the climactic “The Plains / Bitter Dancer.” But to me, the real superstar comes on “The Shrine / An Argument,” which has be arguably one of the best songs of the year. Last, but certainly not least, you have the explosive, jangly, single, “Grown Ocean” which serves as the icing on the cake.

So at the end of this masterpiece, it’s easy to be transfigured by the delightful and beautiful sounds that this band has produced. It’s remarkable how they were able to produce two flawless albums back to back, and if they hadn’t already marked a spot on your list of favorite bands, then this should certainly seal the deal. Look for this to make its place atop some end of the year lists.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/FleetFoxes_HelplessnessBlues.mp3]

Download: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [MP3]

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