June 12, 2017 Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up (Album Review)
Fleet Foxes may have been associated and lumped with contemporary Indie groups such as Mumford & Sons (“I Will Wait”), Bastille (“Pompeii”), Boy & Bear (”Walk the Wire”), The Head and the Heart (“All We Ever Knew”), The Lumineers (“Ho Hey”), and The Strumbellas (“Spirits”); however, digging more deeply into the music of the American band, the initiated will realize that Fleet Foxes’ style is more Folk-rooted than Pop-oriented.
Unlike that of the aforementioned bands, the musical affinity of Fleet Foxes may be traced much farther back, to the ’60s-era Appalachian-influenced, Psychedelic Folk of the likes of The Incredible String Band (“Painting Box”), Pentangle (“Springtime Promises”), and Fairport Convention (“Fotheringay”).
Formed in 2006, in Seattle, Washington, United States, Fleet Foxes is currently comprised by Robin Pecknold (lead vocals, guitar), Skyler Skjelset (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Casey Wescott (keyboards, mandolin, vocals), Christian Wargo (bass, guitar, vocals), and Morgan Henderson (upright bass, guitar, woodwinds, violin, percussion, saxophone).
Primarily due to the members’ penchant to engage in various side projects, to date, the American band has released only two studio albums—the uplifting and soaringly melodious self-titled of 2008 and 2011’s introspective and less-poppy Helplessness Blues. After a short hiatus because of a lineup change, Bandleader Pecknold and the rest of the Fleet Foxes started working on new materials. The result is the band’s forthcoming third album.
Scheduled to be released on June 16, 2017 via Nonesuch Records, the new album, titled Crack-Up, opens with the mouthful and sonically contemplative three-narrative “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar.” This is followed by the relatively upbeat and instrumentally rich “Cassius, –” and “– Naiads, Cassadies,” which are rhythmically and conceptually connected to each other, showing Fleet Foxes’ tendency to dabble in structural progressiveness. The ensuing “Kept Woman” harks to the rustic Folk of Simon & Garfunkel (“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her”) and exudes faint echoes of the ’60s Canterbury phase of the English band Caravan (“Winter Wine”). Another epic excursion ensues in the form of the soulful and melodically catchy “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” which ends in a soothing, ambient-sounding coda.
Crisp and brilliant guitar plucks and passionate vocal expression perfectly define the very somber “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me.” Then there is a change of phase with what may be described as an acoustic Shoegaze styling in the hypnotic “Mearcstapa.” Another reflective excursion steeped with imagery comes next with the piano-led “On Another Ocean (January–June).” Next there is the percussively upbeat “Fool’s Errand,” which hints of Fleet Foxes’ beloved song “White Winter Hymnal,” the band’s first single. The second-to-the-last song, “I Should See Memphis,” is a taste of Baroque Pop influences, owing to its string arrangement on a sparse ambience and with a soothing and breezy vocal styling to boot. Finally, Crack-Up wraps up with the satisfyingly lengthy title track – an apt album closer that can send the listener into a meditative reflection.
Fleet Foxes may not be as prolific as many of its contemporaries in the Indie Folk scene, but if substance and sonic salvation are the mere consideration, then three studio albums should be enough to secure its place in the forefront of the genre. Crack-Up is another seal of such distinction, making the listener crave for more outputs and wonder what new sonic landscape Pecknold and the rest of Fleet Foxes will take them to next, if they ever will; and this very feeling of uncertainty adds to the mystery, longing, and excitement that have shrouded the band like an aura of glow since its beginning. CrypticRock gives Crack-Up 4 out of 5 stars.