It has been a long 6 years since Fleet Foxes released their spectacular record “Helplessness Blues”. There were hints over the years from Robin Pecknold that the Foxes were still writing music, but with the departure of Josh Tillman (who would go on to become Father John Misty) and with Robin attending Columbia University, I was prepared for a life without another Fleet Foxes record. Obviously that didn’t happen with the release of “Crack-Up” earlier this year.
If I was being an ass and rather cheeky, I would say “I guess I was right, because Crack-Up isn’t a Fleet Foxes record”. The truth is, “Crack-Up” is definitely a departure from the sounds and feelings that were prevalent on “Helplessness Blues” and the self-titled album. Gone are the lavish instrumentals and grandiose songwriting. Instead, what we get on “Crack-Up” are some quite slow-paced songs, with many subdued tones and vocal melodies, and many repetitive song structures. Come into this album with preconceptions of what Fleet Foxes should sound like and you will most likely be disappointed at first. I know I was when I first heard the strange whispered vocals on the opening song.
After listening to the album two times in its entirety, the strengths of it became apparent. “Crack-Up” may be darker and more subdued, but there is a lot of emotionally resonant music to be found here. The whole album flows wondrously and there are moments of pure beauty. This isn’t an instantly gratifying album, but it is a very interesting one. The more I listen to it, the more I discover and the melodies that were hidden in the beginning start to reveal themselves. I would say this is the most challenging album from Fleet Foxes, however, like any good challenge it is rewarding to those who face it.
Fleet Foxes did not deliver what I was expecting after years of silence, instead they gave me something to digest and mull over. After giving it the time it deserves, I have to say that “Crack-Up” is a great project. It does not match “Helplessness Blues”, but I place that album up on a pedestal and I can’t see any folk album replacing it any time soon. I do think “Crack-Up” outperforms the self-titled album, as it is a much deeper record with I think a lot more replay value.
Now, hopefully it’s not another 6 years before we get a follow-up release.