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The much-acclaimed, Seattle-based alt-folk band return with a second album.
At this juncture, it would be all too easy for Fleet Foxes to stumble and fall victim to the proverbial ‘difficult second album’ syndrome. The band’s 2008 debut was a fully-formed modern classic; a timeless, sun-drenched folk record packed with harmonies beatific enough to make Crosby, Stills & Nash blush.
Happily, it doesn’t take long for Helplessness Blues to show its hand. Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold has admitted that the process behind this album was a protracted one, beset by doubt and procrastination, yet the result is a work of staggering confidence and beauty even more accessible and ambitious than its predecessor.
There are obvious reference points in the hazy acid folk of the more experimental end of Simon & Garfunkel’s back catalogue and the more pastoral work of Neil Young and Van Morrison, not to mention the daring arrangements of Smile-era Brian Wilson. But to dissect Helplessness Blues is to miss the point; this is a record to bathe in, to sink into and to absorb into every pore. Chris Vinnicombe