Helplessness Blues

Shore: Album Review

There’s something about fall that makes me want to listen to indie music. Maybe it’s the way that nature boasts its most colorful season in the Northeast. Maybe it’s the cool crisp air that’s much welcomed after a hot summer. Maybe it’s the flannel, beanies, sweaters, and boots that bring out the hipster in all of us. Maybe it’s simply all those long drives across the state in mid-October I used to take while listening to Matt Pond PA, The Smiths, Good Old War, Bon Iver and other indie acts. It’s probably a combo of all these things, but for the last 10 years or so fall has felt like indie music season, which is why when Fleet Foxes released their most recent full length Shore on the fall solstice, I knew I had to give it a listen. What surprised me is just how into it I was.

I’ve always been a casual fan of Fleet Foxes. Despite their indie folk style that fits my ideal fall tunes, I usually associate them with winter. Cue “White Winter Hymnal”. Shore is the perfect end of summer fall album to change my mind though. In fact I’m ready to listen to it on a long drive while admiring some foliage.

Shore is Fleet Foxes fourth full length album. It was recorded over the last year including in the midst of the pandemic. Actually, the frontman Robin Pecknold recorded the album himself without the other members of the band. So yes, it does feature other collaborators. I don’t think their sound has changed much throughout their four albums, but who knows, maybe I’m just bad at distinguishing indie folk music. Still, I feel the same vibes from Shore as I do from Helplessness Blues and their debut self-titled. If anything this album feels more bright. “Can I Believe You” is an early front runner for my favorite song on the album so far. It has an uplifting feel to it and is also pretty catchy. Plenty of other songs fit that mood as well though creating that brightness you get from this album.

It’s really unfortunate that tours and festivals have ceased for the time being because this album deserves a tour in its support. I’m sure we’ll get there though. While touring in support of their last album, Crack-Up, they played Coachella in 2018 and I wrote this about them. I did get to see part of their set that year and it was the perfect night time indie Coachella set. Can’t wait til I can say the same again. In the mean time, take in the beauty of fall if you live in an area where it can be appreciated while wearing your beanie and checkered flannel and give this album a listen. Tell me it’s not perfect for the setting.

Coachella Band Preview: Fleet Foxes

Attention: We have now entered February. That means a measly 2 more months until the Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival takes over the Indio desert. I hope you’ve been listening to some festival bands if you’re headed out there this year. This week’s preview features a band that has been around since 2006 and will be making only their second festival appearance.

Fleet Foxes, from Seattle, Washington, formed around 2006 when high school friends Robin Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset began making music together. They decided on the name Fleet Foxes because Pecknold thought it sounded like “some weird English activity like fox hunting” and because their original name “Pineapple” was already taken by a local punk band.

The band became popular through playing the local scene and through MySpace. It was because of the hype through their MySpace page and word of mouth that the band signed a record deal with Sub Pop, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group, in 2008. After releasing their first self-titled EP in 2006, the band then went on to record the EP Sun Giant with their new label. Their self-titled debut album was released 2 months later on June 3, 2008. It received favorable reviews in the U.S. and was named album of the year by Billboard’s Critic’s Choice, but was better received in Europe, selling 200,000 copies in 5 months after its release.

The band wanted to release a follow up album in 2009, but their tour schedule delayed that from happening. It wasn’t until May 3, 2011 that Fleet Foxes’ sophomore album, Helplessness Blues, dropped. The album eventually received a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards.  Through 2011, the band toured in support of the album. After touring ceased it was announced that then drummer, Josh Tillman, had left the band. Tillman went on to start a new project recording and releasing albums under the moniker Father John Misty.

From 2012 until early 2017, news about Fleet Foxes was relatively quiet aside from new album rumors here and there. It wasn’t until January 2017 that it was confirmed that the band was working on a new album. The album, Crack-Up, was announced in March and was released in June 2017.

Fleet Foxes are primarily an indie folk band. You might call them folk rock too. A signature element to their sound is their harmonizing vocals that almost sound like you’re listening to the Beach Boys. Their music is far from surfer pop though. To me, their sound is what you’d expect indie music to sound like, so much so that I believe listening to their records on vinyl would be the best way to listen to them.

I first started listening to Fleet Foxes shortly after I entered my indie music/hipster phase. It happened in early 2012. I downloaded a few of their songs then purchased Helplessness Blues a few days later. It was only during that winter that I listened to Fleet Foxes. My interest in the band didn’t really extend beyond that, but in that time I did fall in love with their sound and “White Winter Hymnal”. There’s something about indie folk in the winter that just feels right to me. I think I can attribute that to Fleet Foxes.

Fleet Foxes plays Coachella on Saturday. As I mentioned it’s their second Coachella. They’re no strangers to the festival but it is their first time playing since 2009. They’re billed as one of the top acts that day so I’d expect to see them on the Outdoor Stage or Main Stage in the early evening hours. Saturday does have a stacked lineup with Haim, alt-J, and Post Malone, but I’d expect them to play around the time the sun sets. I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine a more perfect sound track to that time of day. Here’s a few songs to check out to get you ready for the moment they take the stage, whenever that time may be:

  1. White Winter Hymnal
  2. Helplessness Blues
  3. Mykonos
  4. Blue Ridge Mountains
  5. Montezuma
  6. If You Need To, Keep Time On Me
  7. Ragged Wood
  8. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
  9. Your Protector
  10. Bedouin Dress