Crack-Up – Fleet Foxes

Folk

It has been a long six years since Fleet Foxes released their last album Helplessness Blues. This was the last glance we had of Fleet Foxes before they decided to hang up their hats for more than half a decade. While many people initially questioned the future of Fleet Foxes, here we are in 2017 listening to a long-awaited follow-up to their beloved Helplessness Blues. For many it is a welcomed return of a band that occupies their own unique space in a crowded and convoluted era of music.

Six years is a long time. Think about your place in life six years ago; there’s a good chance that things were quite a bit different; I know they were for me. People change, lives change, people evolve and mature, and our external environment, the world in which we live in, changes to. Undoubtedly, the members of Fleet Foxes are no more immune to the effects of the passing of time then you or me. Evidence of this can be heard loud and clear on the latest Fleet Foxes effort Crack-Up.

On Crack-Up you will still hear much of what you love about the Fleet Foxes. The album is riddled with beautiful melodies and harmonies, complex instrumentals, and Pecknold’s vocal ability and range remain as good as ever. The folk-soul sound that Fleet Foxes fans have fallen in love with also remains stable. Long-time Fleet Foxes fans and newbies alike will find Crack-Up easily accessible thanks to the consistency of Pecknold and crew.

While Fleet Foxes manage to keep much of what people love about their original formula they not afraid to venture into new territory. In more than one aspect Crack-Up is a very different album then any of its predecessors. Crack-Up is much more of an emotional journey. Through its 55 minutes Crack-Up is tragic, enlightened, sad, beautiful, tranquil, expansive and so much more. This emotional progression reflects back upon the concept of the passing of time, a theme found often in folk music.

Crack-Up does some things very well. On Crack-Up Fleet Foxes master the concept of negative space. For each and every burst of music there exists a void. Much like Fleet Foxes own journey as a band. There are moments on Crack-Up that are tranquil, quiet, and serene and each one is filled with such beauty. This record is composed in such a way that makes it feel like one seamless piece of music rather than individual songs. Like a good painting, Crack-Up’s biggest accomplishment is in the way it forces you to interpret its various parts.

Crack-Up has its obvious stand-outs. The singles that were offered pre-release, Third of May/Odiagahara and Fool’s Errand, are good examples of this. These songs do well standing on their own two feet and are the closest thing to a White Winter Hymnal or Mykonos you will find on this album. They serve as pillars alongside the other songs that help bind the album together. –Naiads, Cassadies (one of my current favorites off this album) and Kept Woman do well to act as a harmonic bridge between the album’s opener and centerpiece. Crack-Up succeeds in making you feel that every song is in its right place. The album’s pace and flow are perfect. This is a credit to the album’s composition. It is constructed in a way that makes it feel whole.

So where do the Fleet Foxes go from here? Crack-Up feels very much like the beginning of a new chapter for Pecknold and crew and already Robin is talking about the future. It sounds like the band is going to be a lot more active in making music in the coming years. Fleet Foxes have shown through Crack-Up that they are not afraid of progression and we will undoubtedly continue to see this in their future efforts.

Robin Pecknold has been busy the past six years with his work at Columbia University, staying active on social media, and most certainly soul-searching. His spiritual progression can be heard on Crack-Up; his most intellectual album to date. What’s even more evident is that Robin and crew seem more comfortable than ever before. Fleet Foxes really feel at home on Crack-Up and I know that I can speak for many when I say that we are happy to have them back. In a sense, Crack-Up represents the passing of time better than any album I have heard in the past. It remains retrospective while ushering in a new era for Fleet Foxes and masterfully embraces the present. I don’t think this album would have the same effect if it was not for the six years of negative space.

See you next week.

From Scotland With Love – King Creosote

Folk

I’ll start with an album that I have been listening to a lot recently. From Scotland With Love is a remarkable addition to the collection of music by Scottish based King Creosote. From Scotland With Love was composed as a soundtrack to the documentary by Virginia Heath of the same title. The film features historic footage from the National Library of Scotland and Scottish Screen Archive backtracked by the Creosote album and absent of any actual commentary. Think of it as one long music video. I am happy to admit that both the film and the album are masterfully done.

Like its film counterpart, From Scotland With Love is both retrospective and sincere. The album opens with Something to Believe In, a heartfelt introduction to the 39 minute collection that highlights Creosote’s fascinating vocals over a short set of meaningful lyrics. From the slow and somber tone of Something to Believe In the album eventually evolves into upbeat and exciting songs such as Largs and For One Night Only that do well to vary the mood of the album.

Perhaps one of the most interesting songs on the album is Bluebell, Cockleshell, 123 featuring a children’s rhyme encapsulating lyrics by Creosote that include “Bury me in the old churchyard, Beside my only brother, My coffin shall be black, Six white angels at my back.” This song is a pleasure to listen to and is a highlight of the album.

The instrumentals on the album are just as complex and beautiful as the lyrics. From the accordion work on Something to Believe In to the acoustic guitar work on Bluebell to the rhythmic percussion of One Floor Down to the inspiring violin on A Prairie Tale there is something to excite your interest in every song.

From Scotland With Love continues to impress me every time I listen to it. It is one of those albums that sounds better and better with each listen. The only thing that makes this album more enjoyable is by listening to it while watching its corresponding documentary; I highly suggest it. This album is here to stay in my music library and I hope you will enjoy it as well. Please feel free to post your thoughts.

Until next week, farewell.