Album Review: Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”


Fleet Foxes new album, "Helplessness Blues"

By Sarah Pacitti

Fleet Foxes’ newest album, Helplessness Blues, released May 3 is a melodic, folksy masterpiece. The lyrics are moving and poetic, and the variation of sound is all together powerful – a true personal reflection in its entirety. Lead singer Robin Pecknold’s soothing yet forceful voice resembles that of a Harry Chapin, a Paul Simon or maybe even a Brian Wilson. He sings with a certain nostalgia in his tone, remembering and looking back on a different time,“and believe me it’s not easy when I look back,” Pecknold sings out. This album is a compelling compilation, a mix of songs with acoustic folk guitar, psychedelic sound, and a chilling choir in the background of certain songs on the album, such as in “Montezuma,” the very first track that is heard. 

The song “The Shrine/ An Argument,” is one of the more meditative tracks on the album. While the beginning lyrics paint a picture of peaceful times, the tempo really begins to pick up and Pecknold exchanges his quiet voice for that of a thunderous, cathartic release: “In the doorway holding every letter that I wrote, in the driveway pulling away putting on your coat, in the ocean washing off my name from your throat, in the morning, in the morning.” Perhaps a song about moving on and letting go, Fleet Foxes really let’s go with this one, jamming out in this track with an incredible vigor, distinct and energetic in delivery.

Helplessness Blues really has it all. Nestled in the middle of the album is a purely instrumental number. Titled “The Cascades,” its tempo fluctuating from a slow calm to a speedy jolt and then back to a slow for the finish, sort of similar to Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas.”  Probably a song worth playing on repeat while studying for finals…probably on repeat because, after all, it is just that good.

In the last track of the album, Pecknold exclaims, “If I know only one thing its that everything I see of the world outside is so inconceivable that often, I barely can speak.” Listen to this album start to finish. Maybe on repeat. Then after, see if you can speak. Chances are, you too, will be left speechless. Enjoy.

Click here to listen to the title track “Helplessness Blues”