Album Review: Crack-Up, Fleet Foxes

Artful folkies emerge from long dark night of the soul.

Robin Pecknold spent much of the six years between Fleet Foxes albums running away from his band. He cut his hair, shaved his beard, backpacked around Asia and signed up for a post-graduate course at Columbia where, sans facial scrub, he passed unrecognised.

The goal was decontamination. The highly-pressurised environment in which Fleet Foxes recorded their second LP, Helplessness Blues, had turned toxic, with the Seattle group descending into in-fighting and Pecknold experiencing recrimination and hurt in his personal life. “I didn’t know what to do,” he commented recently. “I thought it would be cool to be unmoored for a little while.”

In losing his moorings, Pecknold has reconnected with the spark that made Fleet Foxes’s eponymous 2008 debut so compelling - a fervour sadly diminished on the over long Helplessness Blues. The result is an epic folk-rock treatise, brimming with loss and longing, yet also full of sweetness and light.

With bandmate Skyler Skjelset producing, Crack-Up begins as it means to continue via-the three-part rush of ‘I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar’, a fever dream of harmonies, sonorous guitars and tempos that lull and moan like wind through the trees.

Thereafter there is little respite: ‘Third of May / Ōdaigahara’ combines the chilly melancholia of Sigur Ros with an autumnal sense of wonder; ‘Fools Errand’ and ‘I Should See Memphis’ are gothic hoedowns that build towards twinkling rockouts. From Pecknold’s long dark night of the soul, Fleet Foxes have dredged their most singular excursion yet – a record of immense intensity yet one strip-lit with grace and beauty.

Out now.

 

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