Seattle folk-rockers Fleet Foxes’ sophomore album, Helplessness Blues, psychologically teleports me to a spiritual place. The effect is experienced largely in the instrumentation; the soft pluck of mandolin strings, mounting acoustic guitars, and soaring string arrangements, however it’s Robin Pecknold’s vocals that transform the dream to something more tangible.
As the title implies, Helplessness Blues is rife with songs wrought with pain, regret and sorrow. Songs such as “Bedouin Dress”, “Lorelei”, and “Someone You’d Admire” recount heartbreaking stories of wasted life and mistreated love. If not for the velvety warm melodies that accompany the lyrics, they would be unbearably depressing; erasing any chance of learning the valuable life-lessons they each subtly hide.
Confirming the underlying message that all is not dark and lost, the album ends with the brilliant “Grown Ocean”, a song full of hopeful optimism. Pecknold sings “I know someday the smoke will all burn off. All these voices I’ll someday have turned off” the musical urgency building steadily to booming drums, cymbals and fluttering flutes. It’s a perfect end to a nearly perfect album that sticks to Fleet Fox’s proven formula of music and song-writing excellence.