After the release of their self-titled debut, Seattleâ€™s Fleet Foxes had quite the challenge ahead of themÂ ofÂ releasing a worthy sophomore album. After years of writing, touring, and revision, Helplessness Blues is a piece of baroque pop bliss that is certainly worth the wait. While Fleet Foxes felt like sound breaking through a blanket of snow, Helplessness Blues has more of a springtime climate, a bit warmer even if that heat seems to come from evenings spent gathered around a fire.
One of the keys to the bandâ€™s beauty is the vocal delivery. Layered and lush, these takes are consistently good with little effort. Thereâ€™s no need for electronics to interfere and autotune; these men simply have the sort of harmony that any choir would envy.
Clocking in at nearly an hour, the record contains several triumphant moments. â€œBedouin Dressâ€ has Celtic-inspired strings that evoke the image of line dancing. â€œHelplessness Blues,â€ available for a free download on the bandâ€™s site, is an ironically effective, sprawling and beautiful glimpse at futility. â€œThe Shrine / An Argumentâ€ could be separated into two songs, but together, itâ€™s much more memorable, with dark lyrics contrasting the beautiful melody until horns squeal to a fragmented conclusion.
As modern folk acts have hit the mainstream, Fleet Foxes stay on top of their game with good reason. Commanding and atmospheric, itâ€™s impossible to imagine they could produce a single song unworthy of an audience.