In a sentence:
‘Shore’ is Robin Pecknold’s most sun-drenched and stripped back Fleet Foxes album yet – something that both works in its favour and against it.
If ever someone were likely to thrive in the forced internalisation of a pandemic, it would be Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold. Over the last 15 years, he and an ever-revolving cast have poignantly penned some of the most introspective and refreshingly confronting folk music that has left fans as jubilant as it has forlorn.
Constant progression has been the theme of Fleet Foxes’ releases. 2017’s comeback Crack-Up represented the most interesting sound the band had produced yet; a record which took the time to experiment with its hypnotic passages of repetitious rapture. It was a record that personified the progression that Pecknold looks to attain on each release, so it was somewhat surprising to hear on fourth record Shore the most sun-drenched and stripped-back collection of songs since the project’s 2008 self-titled debut.
Foxes // ‘Fleet Foxes’ at 10 years old
the album cover of a Fleet Foxes LP reveals plenty of what to expect; Helplessness Blues’
collection of abstract art summed up the experimentation and fuller sound that
was to come, so to compare Shore to Crack-Up is to say that we
are now entering the gentle calm after the storm has passed.
This is not
to say that Pecknold has played it safe on Shore, though here the
reinventions are more subtle. For on the project’s fourth record we are treated
to some of the most rock-indebted songs that Pecknold has recorded. Both ‘Can I Believe You’ and
‘Quiet Air / Gioia’ feature dense drums, with the latter almost losing the
voice of Pecknold in the mix amidst the jagged guitar licks.
the main risk of the record is its simplicity. Where in the past an idea has
been allowed to be fleshed out and experimented with fully, here the ideas are
a lot more concise. ‘Maestranza’ flourishes for its tightness; initial
shuffling drums are blended by layer upon layer of gorgeous guitars, an idea
leaves as soon as it becomes familiar, where previously a sound would ruminate,
here we are left wanting more. However, the directness of the album does not
always work. During the more abstract ‘Going-To-The-Sun Road’, the sheer volume
of intermingling instrumental ideas are begging to be explored in more detail; be
it the multitude of horn progressions or the backing harpsichord, it’s a moment
which could (and should) have been allowed to develop.
is a triumph from start to finish. Focusing on a myriad of topics, from the
lack of social opportunities on the streets of New York (‘Jara’) to depression
and addiction (‘I’m Not My Season’), Pecknold manages to tastefully capture a
full range of emotions.
is the record’s focus on death and eulogy which epitomises the LP. Album
hits that magical middle ground between the miserable and the majestic.
Instrumentally the track does not try to do too much, instead preferring to
rely on a phenomenal vocal performance. Lyrically, the track pays tribute to
many of the records influencers; there are references to Tim Buckley and Jimi
Hendrix, however, it is the tribute to David
Berman which stands out. The euphoria which surrounds the track almost
evokes the ironic state of joyous instrumentation that surrounded much of Purple
Shore also packs some of the softest punches
that Pecknold has ever delivered. ‘Featherweight’ and strips back all
instrumentation to instead allow for a devastatingly regal punch. Elsewhere,
‘Thymia’ works wonderfully for its rising guitars and Beach Boys vocal
glance, Shore may not seem like the triumphant piece of sonic
progression that it is. By reverting to a more accessible sound, Robin Pecknold
has taken one of his biggest risks yet. Though on occasion, this has its
missteps, without a doubt Shore is a sun-soaked beauty of a record; it
may not win over those who aren’t fans already, but for those prepared to give
it time, Shore represents another excellent instalment in the Fleet
Foxes discography. (7/10) (John Tindale)
Listen to Shore by Fleet Foxes here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Anti, Casey Wescott, Christian Wargo, Fleet Foxes, Matt Barrick, Morgan Henderson, review, Robin Pecknold, Skyler Skjelset
Reading Music Journalism at Huddersfield University, I have a passion for all things musical. I pride myself on being open minded in music genres and have a love of writing to match. The coolest cat on The Student Playlist, I also support Hartlepool United and am an avid pro-wrestling fan.
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