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Darker and more experimental offering

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July 20, 2017

Six years is a long time between drinks in the music world — enough time for an audience to move on to fresher pastures. But the Fleet Fox audience is a patient lot.

Six years is a long time between drinks in the music world — enough time for an audience to move on to fresher pastures. But the Fleet Fox audience is a patient lot — content to stroke beards and reminisce about the glory that was EP Sun Giant and album Fleet Foxes in 2008.

With these two records the Seattle folk band captured in one masterstroke two major audiences — the above 50s brought up on sunny Beach Boys and sweet Crosby Stills and Nash, and the younger folkies listening to the darker Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver. Their much-awaited new album CrackUp continues their harmony-rich pastoral sound but deepens the effect with more complex lyrics and experimental sounds.

Overall, the new album is bleaker and more remote than their first two albums — which will leave behind the surface listeners waiting for the next pretty tune or pop. Crack-Up lacks an instant centrepiece song such as White Winter Hymnal and instead wanders between lush harmonies and urgent journeys into electronic sound scapes.

The lyrics are more dense and packed with oblique references such as the Spanish 18th century painter Goya, ancient Egypt and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The orchestrations can be gorgeous but then suddenly drop away almost to silence, or they shift tempo to a frenzy. The title track is undoubtedly the most powerful — richly orchestrated and punctured by big dark spaces.

For those who fell in love with their first records, there is still much to appreciate here — you just have to listen longer and deeper. Of course, the gap between Fleet Foxes’ last album and Crack-Up has been filled with their former drummer Father John Misty — aka Josh Tillman — and his album Pure Comedy.

A comparison between the two is interesting and inevitable. Tillman’s songs are pointed, witty and to some degree more accessible than the new Fleet Foxes’ sound. But they both share a meandering obscurity and of course, wonderfully rich vocals. 

Have you listened to this new album? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section. 

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