In 2011, Fleet Foxes released their second full length album, “Helplessness Blues” which garnered them universal acclaim and even a nomination for Best Folk Album for the Grammy awards that year. This was a momentous time for the band and I think the recognition they received for this record was well deserved.
“Helplessness Blues” certainly marks a change in sound for Fleet Foxes, they are less folky here compared to their previous releases and, for lack of a better word, embrace more of a pop sound. That being said, the usual suspects for instruments are still here and it isn’t a total transformation of sound, but it is noticeable. Robin Pecknold holds down the vocals more than ever before, as he clearly sings from the bottom of his heart, giving a lot of impressive performances on the album.
One of my favorite aspects of “Helplessness Blues” is the consistency of the album. Every song fits perfectly together and the quality never dips from beginning to end. This truly is meant as an album experience and I never feel the itch to skip ahead nor do I think there is ever a lull in the track listing. The more I think about it, the more I consider this album to be one of the most consistent records I have listened to. I do have favorite moments and songs on the album, “The Shrine/An Argument” being one, but I appreciate the journey from the opener to the closer much more than jumping to these moments.
“Helplessness Blues” emits an unrelenting feeling of wanderlust and a romantic view of the world. The album stirs something deep and primordial inside of me, making my heart yearn for a lonely cabin in the mountains and a sheep dog, while at the same time giving me a great feeling of love for my fellow man and a wanting to be part of something larger than my myself. Whatever feeling Fleet Foxes coaxes out of me here, this is a very powerful album.
“Helplessness Blues” is not only my favorite Fleet Foxes album, but it is probably my favorite folk album. The sounds are beautiful, the lyrics are poetic, and the emotions it stirs in me are undeniable. This is where I fell in love with Fleet Foxes, and unfortunately this is where Fleet Foxes departed for 6 long years, before returning with “Crack Up”, which I will be reviewing soon.