The indie music scene is filled with a bunch of one-album wonders. They astound with their first CD and then fall by the wayside with their sophomore album before being forgotten. The Fleet Foxes did what many find hard to do, make an amazing second album after a near perfect first. Their self-titled debut was on many people’s and organizations’ top ten albums of the decade and living up to that critical acclaim on their second album may seem tough. That could be one reason we have had to wait so long for them to release new music, but after listening to Helplessness Blues the wait was obviously worth it.
I reviewed the title track, “Helplessness Blues” a couple months ago when it was released. I said then that there was not much distinctly different from that track to their early work and still believe this. They were so great on their first album it was hard to get any better. That may explain why this album took so long to make, but it also helps to explain the sound of the album. Overall, the same basic sound everyone fell in love with in ’08 is felt again on this album, but at the same time a difference is felt. When listening to the album in its entirety it is easy to detect that Robin Pecknold and company have grown since their first album. That maturity pushes this album to the threshold of greatness seen on their debut.
One other track that stands out on the album is “Bedouin Dress”. It embodies everything that the Fleet Foxes seemed to want to portray on this album. The folk that makes them who they are is perfectly embedded with Pecknold’s soothing vocals proving to listeners that they are back and the wait was worth it. At times during the track Pecknold’s voice is all that is heard. This emphasizes the power he holds on the listener and shows how much the tracks revolve around his voice. His vocals are an essential part of what makes the Fleet Foxes amazing.
The rest of the album leaves the listener with little to be disappointed about. If you loved their first album you will love Helplessness Blues. If one thing was learned from this album it was that the Fleet Foxes are as good as we thought they were. At times it seemed like it would be hard for them to live up to their first album, but they did that and then some. Helplessness Blues may prove to be one of the best albums of 2011.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-1/2
Key Tracks: “Helplessness Blues”, “Bedouin Dress”.
Recommended if you like: The Tallest Man On Earth, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!