The Daily Californian Online

CD Review: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

By Sarah Burke
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Category: Arts & Entertainment > Music > CD Reviews


Anyone looking to vacation in the cool-breezed mountains this summer is in luck, because Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues will provide the perfect tunes to whistle. The West Coast folk group has finally reappeared with their much awaited sophomore album after gaining popularity in 2008 for their self titled debut. Light-hearted Appalachian anthems like "White Winter Hymnal" boosted their original country-chorus style into indie fan adoration for three years, building excitement for their return. Foxes fans may have high expectations, but Helplessness Blues will fulfill them with flying colors.

The album presents a more mature poeticism, with less abstract descriptions through more effectively meaningful lyrics. An elaborate instrumental composition paired with calmer vocals steer it into a more subdued style. While many of Helplessness' songs are not as immediately impressive as favorites on Fleet Foxes' last album, they prove to be long lasting listens. The album's opening song, "Montezuma," weaves choral background "oohs" with bluegrass inspired guitar picks and Robin Pecknold's folk ballad vocals into a simple yet graceful hymn, unconcerned with catchy hooks.

This refreshing simplicity continues throughout the album with songs like the instrumental "The Cascades" and re-released "Blue Spotted Tail" that provide a stylistic departure from the rest of the full-bodied album. Meanwhile, "The Shrine/An Argument" departs in the other direction, by with an unexpected experimental jazz solo. Beyond that, Fleet Foxes don't provide much surprise but, with such a memorable first album, living up to their sound is more of a challenge than reinventing it. Helplessness Blues is nothing new but, it's familiar in the best way possible.

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