Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fleet Foxes — Helplessness Blues

This past Monday, Fleet Foxes broke their two year studio-recording silence and unleashed the title track from their upcoming album upon the world.

(download the song for free at

As I was a very big fan of their Sun Giant EP and subsequent self-titled album, I have been quietly anticipating anything new from the band for some time now. Separation does indeed make the heart grown fonder, as the longer they stayed away, the more I went back to those two studio records and fell deeper in love with them.

If this new song is any indication of the direction of their new material, the wait was more than worth it.

As this is the first studio recording that many of us are hearing with J. Tillman in the band, it's not only of interest as far as what the band has done next, but in terms of how their sound is changing with a new member.

It's been a few days now and the song has easily reached my most played track on my page in the past week, but I just have one initial observation that struck me when I first heard the song and still rings true: this is not a very 'easy' leadoff single. In fact, I'd even venture to say it's willfully challenging listeners to listen to it least three times to decode it and really start to understand it (because that's what it took for me).

The allusions to being a cog in the machine, the aspirations to be out of the spotlight, the nearly confrontational three minutes of acoustic strumming that kicks off the song — all of this strikes me as either one of two things: 1) a band that is so far up its own arse to the point where they think it will work because people don't care and just pay attention because they are FLEET FOXES or 2) a band that has created something they don't even have a full grasp on and are completely unsure of how to proceed.

The final movement of the song finds Robin declaring that if he had an orchard he'd 'work till I'm raw, work till I'm sore' only to confusingly decide, 'someday I'll be like the man on the screen.'

(totally channeling Neil Young on Time Fades Away in feeling and vocal timbre, I might add)

What a confounding, dense, wordy mini-masterpiece. It'd be totally annoying if it didn't sound so god damn sincere and wasn't just outright catchy.

But it does. And it is.

I have no idea what to expect out of the rest of the album, but if this song is any indicator, pack your lunches, kiddos; one of the best bands in recent times is about to unleash a juggernaut.

Whoo. Fasten your seatbelts.


1 comment:

Lostcookie said...

Funnily enough this keeps playing on radio 1 over here in the UK, and though I'm not particularly fond of their work, it reminds me alot of Simon & Garfunkle and thought my mother in-law would dig this. Though after reading your snippit , makes me reconsider how I really feel about this track.

It's totes serene.