Almost a decade into their career, Fleet Foxes return with a darker, opaque album
Label: Nonesuch Records Inc.
Following their previous albums, Fleet Foxes have always offered rich instrumentation and deep meaningful lyrics thanks to lead vocalist Robin Pecknold. With their ambitious self-titled debut, to their second album Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes have had a particular sound that they stick to: indie folk balladry. Which is why on Crack-Up, Fleet Foxes ambition to create a bigger sound succeeds well.
The album starts with, “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar” and as the song starts, we’re greeted with concealed vocals which then leads to a thumping folk balladry. The songs are glorified and harmonised with lush instrumentation which together create a distinct and awe sounding experience. It almost bridges with psychedelia with its reverberated vocals and punched out acoustic guitar.
“Cassius, -“ by surprise, see Fleet Foxes get somewhat political. The song depicts racial inequality and protest. “Red and blue, the useless sirens scream”, Pecknold sings nonchalantly referencing the two major parties in the United States: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Sonically, they carry onwards the same sound from the previous track. With continuous loops and harmonised echoed vocals, the song gives off a daunting feeling sound.
Compared to their previous albums, they each have one song that stands out as a single, but from the way this album sounds, it was intentional not to include a single that stands out from the rest. The closest song we get to a single is “- Naiads, Cassadies”, but even that doesn’t sound appropriate to exclude. Carried by the low driven floor-toms, the song is instrumentally scarce. It’s as if they let the spaces in between notes be the most effective part of the song rather than the singing. Because even the lyricism is scarce. And this follows again with the next track “Kept Woman”. Though more is happening lyrically, the songs are driven by piano, guitar and vocals: all of which coincide beautifully. The song drowns in gloominess with the resounding vocals and quaint synth.
The following track, “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” being my favourite off the album, is also the longest. But throughout the near nine minute track, they fill up the song with grace and immediacy. The first half of the song gives a continuous joyful sound. The song is filled with major chords which sound jarred compared to the previous tracks seeing as how dark they are in sound. But as we go into the second half, we’re treated to an explosive, emotive, psychedelic song. With its roaring guitar, it’s as if the song belongs on a Pink Floyd album. Listening to this song at full volume amidst the chaotic sounds, give a fun and exhilarating experience.
“If You Need to, Keep Time on Me” sounds somber, but in conjunction also sound pleasant and the same follows into “Mearcstapa”. They both lack in lyricism, but make up for it in instrumentation. With their strange chord professions, it gives off an unknowing feeling as you wonder where they’ll lead the song into. Their harmonies being the most effective part of the song.
“On Another Ocean (January / June)” feels as if they picked bits of the previous songs and put them together to create yet another somber track. It’s clear that throughout the rest of the album, that they’ll all sound the same.
And though the last three tracks do sound similar, they manage to pull it off incredibly well. “Fool’s Errand” and “I Should See Memphis” offer a more shoegazed approach. With its warm pad synth, it sounds as if you could cuddle the song. Though more low-key than the previous tracks, they are still effective and resolute in sound.
Then with the last track on the album, with the song sharing the same name as the album, usually, following this method means that this song should stand out in some way…but it doesn’t…not in negative way at least. By surprise, hearing a brass section and added harmonies, sounds as if they were influenced by The Beatles’, Rubber Soul. All instrumentation appropriates with the dissonant three-way harmonies which finalise the ending of the album.
In conclusion, Fleet Foxes take a risk blending more genres and in turn create a desolate sounding album. But in turn, add more emotion like never before with their raw instrumentation and dynamic sound.
Words by Lewis Baker