Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

January 01, 1970

(Sub Pop)




Stamping an impression of beauty incarnate, Fleet Foxes’
sophomore set ought to elevate the already stellar reputation the band earned
their first time out, while further affirming the comparisons to the ‘60s Laurel Canyon
crowd. Rarely is a band afforded such praises and platitudes straight out of
the box, and indeed both Sun Giant,
their initial EP, and the eponymous album which followed set a high bar, one that
might have proved daunting for a less ambitious outfit. In the process, they
provided an impetus for other bands with similar sensibilities – Dawes, Blitzen
Trapper, Middle Brother, Midlake and Mumford & Sons in particular.


Yet, while their contemporaries often dabble loosely with
the nu-folk tag, Fleet Foxes re-imagine those sepia trappings without wholly
redefining them. That difference is manifest in the inherent orthodoxy of their
approach, which finds acoustic strumming, fiddles, mandolin and dulcimer
fleshing out the arrangements, even as Moogs and Mellotrons aid the ambiance.
The references fly fast and furious, most notably that of Crosby Stills and
Nash, thanks to the swelling harmonies and the brow-furling sentiments that
emanate from practically every track. “Sim Sala Bim” takes that similarity
several steps further, its evolution beginning with quiet acoustic guitars and
ending in a furious send-off which echoes the familiar farewell refrains of
“Suite Judy Blue Eyes.” 


On the other hand, if Fleet Foxes were merely mimics, the
critical pronouncements would be far more subdued. Additional hints of
Fleetwood Mac, Fairport Convention, and the Beach Boys may be etched in their
template, but the swelling choruses that cascade through songs like “Montezuma,”
“Bedouin Dress” and “Blue Spotted Tail” billow with a hushed majesty that’s all
the more akin to a sort of angelic entity. Such is the mesmerizing quality of
these songs and the spectral treatment they’re accorded. Credit the band’s
ability to offer reverence and circumspect even while etching a spectral aura
all their own.


Sala Bim,” “Montezuma,” “Bedouin Dress” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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