Those who say folk is a dying or dead genre are those who are uninitiated with Fleet Foxes. Critically acclaimed indie-folk band Fleet Foxes return after losing band member Josh Tillman, who currently performs under the guise of Father John Misty. Helplessness Blues is still highly regarded as one of the best albums of 2011, and for good reason. The breathy, intoxicating vocals stifled over drums and guitars straight out of an adventure film combine to create a masterpiece so folky you could find it at a farmer’s market in a straw hat. Although it may sound controversial, Fleet Foxes’ new album Crack-Up is, by far, their most compelling and hauntingly beautiful album to date. Even without perusing the lyrics, it becomes obvious of the profound attitudes of the band.
The soft murmur transcending to grandiose strings on “I Am All That I Need / Aaroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar” are angelic. In a way, the two opposing vocals and instrumentals seem to be arguing with each other, since the song itself seems to transition between the two often. “Cassius -“, and “- Naiads, Cassadies” further extends Fleet Foxes’ stylistic changes, before almost immediately reverting to their old ways. Two vastly different songs that, from a pure music standpoint, almost negate the effect of the others meaningfulness due the complete switch up. “Kept Woman” is so complex and so un-Fleet Foxes’, which is a refreshing change of pace and wholeheartedly welcomed on an album like this. The eight minute epoch that is “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” is somehow even more layered and compromising. Fleet Foxes albums are normally akin to that of an onion, a parfait or an ogre, in the sense that they are layered, however “Crack-Up” seems to be quite a bit more complex than previous, musically, lyrically and structurally.
The most well known song from the album, “If You Need To, Keep Time On Me” is a very sweet indie ballad rife with echoing vocals and floating piano. “If You Need To, Keep Time On Me” is, arguably, the most normal sounding song the album and even despite this fact, there are so many elements involved in the production of the album. The opening bass line of “Mearcstapa” is so cold and ominous and it really sets the tone for the rest of the album from there. Noticeably, every song has its own atmosphere, almost like a sound track for a different experience. The vibes of each song can equate a certain activity or feeling, with no two songs sounding inherently similar in this premise.
“One Another Ocean (January / June)”’s hauntingly beautiful mystique is what makes the objective best track on the album. Not really that much in the way of instrumentals but the heavenly vocal performances of lead singer Robin Pecknold is engulfing. The final three tracks “Fool’s Errand”, “I Should See Memphis” and “Crack-Up” all sound like classic Fleet Foxes style songs, “Crack-Up” the most out of the three. Although the entire album prior to this has seen Fleet Foxes attempt to switch up their style and create more alternative sounding music, the final three songs actually fit into the narrative of the album quite well.
The battle of the folk bands rages on, after Bon Iver came out with the radical 22, A Million, Fleet Foxes countered with the hollow, passionate Crack-Up, and boy, did both of these bands take a risk. The key point in music is versatility and diversity. Regardless of how well a formula works, eventually it will become tedious, c’est la vie. Fleet Foxes didn’t fall into the rut of music-making and chose to take a risk. Fortunately, the risk paid off, and Fleet Foxes created an album that might just satisfy their fans for another six years.
Review Score: 8.2 out of 10.
Crack-Up is out now.