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LISTEN IN: Fleet Foxes take the long road to releasing second album

Published 5:00pm Saturday, May 14, 2011

Helplessness Blues

by Fleet Foxes,

3.5 out of 5

It took Fleet Foxes three years and a scrapped recording session to complete their second album.

The folk-pop group originally intended the followup to their 2008 self-titled debut to be released in 2009, but the group scrapped one recording session — at the cost of $60,000 — and went back to the drawing board.

The result didn’t come easy, but it was worth the wait. Despite the challenges of recording, “Helplessness Blues” seamlessly blends a dreamy mountain pop with modern folk.

On the new album, Fleet Foxes expands beyond vocals, drums and guitars to add in wind instruments like horns and strings. But make no mistake, the vocals and harmonies are the band’s bread and butter.

Folk music draws the listener to the words and singing first, but with Fleet Foxes, the instruments take turns filling the spaces between the words. Drums and picking guitars carry to song “Lorelai.” “The Shrine/An Argument” begins with a picking guitar, dissolves into out of-tune jazz horns. However, even the out-of-tune notes sound meticulous before finally transitioning to strings.

Lead singer Robin Peckwood was reported saying he wanted the followup to be recorded quickly with singing and guitar errors left in at spots. Drum clicks to open track “Grown Ocean” provide live feel, but the album showcases a precise sound.

Strings in “Bedouin Dress” and repeated references to Innisfree (best known through “Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats) give the song a rustic sound.

At times, the music takes on a free and easy feel, but the lyrics touch on topics from lost youth to death to love.

The album is sure to build on the success of the band’s debut and further propel Fleet Foxes into the spotlight.

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