Helplessness Blues

Helplessness Blues

5.0 1
by Fleet Foxes

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Props to Helplessness Blues for making the fretless zither cool again. On their second album, Fleet Foxes continue to take their music in unusual directions, creating a baroque folk-pop sound that hints at a number of influences -- Simon & Garfunkel, Fairport…  See more details below


Props to Helplessness Blues for making the fretless zither cool again. On their second album, Fleet Foxes continue to take their music in unusual directions, creating a baroque folk-pop sound that hints at a number of influences -- Simon & Garfunkel, Fairport Convention, the Beach Boys -- but is too unique, too esoteric, too damn weird to warrant any direct links between the Seattle boys and their predecessors. It's still a downright gorgeous record, though, filled to the brim with glee club harmonies and the sort of stringed instruments that are virtually unknown to anyone who didn't go to music school (and even if you did, when's the last time you rocked out on the Marxophone?). Relying on obscure instrumentation can be a dangerous game, and Fleet Foxes occasionally run the risk of sounding too clever for their own good, as if the need to "out-folk" groups like Mumford & Sons and Midlake is more important than writing memorable, articulate folk tunes. But Helplessness Blues has the necessary songs to back it up, from the slow crescendos of the album-opening "Montezuma" to the sweeping orchestral arrangement of the encore number, "Grown Ocean."" Robin Pecknold remains the ringleader of this Celtic circus. His is the only voice to cut through the thick, lush harmonies that Fleet Foxes splash across every refrain like paint, and his lyrics -- rife with allusions to the Bible, Dante the Magician, and the poetry of W.B. Yeats -- reach beyond the territory he occupied on the band's first record, which painted simple geographical portraits with songs like "Sun It Rises," "Ragged Wood," "Quiet Houses," and "Blue Ridge Mountains." On Helplessness Blues, he's just as interested in the landscape of the human heart. Still, it's the music that stands out, and the band's acoustic folk/chamber pop combo makes every song sound like a grand tribute to back-to-the-land living.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Sub Pop


Disc 1

  1. Montezuma  -  Fleet Foxes
  2. Bedouin Dress  -  Fleet Foxes
  3. Sim Sala Bim  -  Fleet Foxes
  4. Battery Kinzie  -  Fleet Foxes
  5. The Plains/Bitter Dancer  -  Fleet Foxes
  6. Helplessness Blues  -  Fleet Foxes

Disc 2

  1. The Cascades  -  Fleet Foxes
  2. Lorelei  -  Fleet Foxes
  3. Someone You'd Admire  -  Fleet Foxes
  4. The Shrine/An Argument  -  Fleet Foxes
  5. Blue Spotted Tail  -  Fleet Foxes
  6. Grown Ocean  -  Fleet Foxes

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Album Credits

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Helplessness Blues 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
poughkeepsiejohn More than 1 year ago
With the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's "Nevermind" coming up soon, it's interesting (to say the least) how the alternative rock scene has progressed over the years. We'll never know what kind of music Kurt Cobain could've created had he lived. What we do is know is that he loved traditional American music, particularly the music of Leadbelly. If he did live, Cobain might have drifted towards making the kind of music that some call Americana, a combination of traditional folk, edgy alt-rock and unadorned country music. In fact, that music might have sounded like Fleet Foxes. Fleet Foxes is a Washington-based folk group which is mostly the brainchild of Robin Pecknold, a talented singer-songwriter-mulit-instrumentalist. "Helplessness Blues" is just the second album made by Fleet Foxes for Sub Pop, Nirvana's label. Much of "Helplessness Blues" was recorded at Reciprocal Recording, where Nirvana recorded their debut album; some of it was also recorded at Dreamland Studios, which is in nearby West Hurley, NY. So, the spirit of Nirvana is felt in this band whose subject matter deals with the fragility and uncertainity of life. Yet, this is not a Joy Division-esque doom and gloom record. Pecknold creates a warm and inviting vibe with this album, which has more than a touch of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Yet, Pecknold was interviewed recently and he said the biggest inspiration behind this album was "Astral Weeks", Van Morrison's 1968 jazz masterpiece that created an ethereal sonic atmosphere that drew the listen in in spite of themselves. "Helplessness Blues" is such an album and like "Astral Weeks", the songs come across more as performances rather than mere songs. While the album's subject matter may turn off some, "Helplessness Blues" is a record that looks toward the future with realistic tendencies, not false hope, which is certainly evident in the title track. Even when it deals with death in "Battery Kinzie" and "The Shrine", it's never done apathetically. This is one of the few alt-rock albums, next to perhaps REM's "Automatic For The People", that sees hope even in the darkest moments. Even the echoey, cavernous sound of the album is a refreshing welcome. I didn't expect to like this record as much as I did. But this is one of the first rock or folk albums to come around in a while to deal with the uncertain limitations of our current social atmosphere. It could've been a real downer. Instead, "Helplessness Blues" is a brilliant, relevatory album all made in the long shadow of the aftermath of grunge while focusing itself on the future, whatever it may be.
dygunraider More than 1 year ago
I had not really heard of "Fleet Foxes" before a few months back. At first I wasn't even particularly enticed when I did hear of them. Another big important Indie Band like Arcade Fire,TV On The Radio, BrightEyes,The Civil Wars...... you get my point? My listening list is already about as large as the Deficit so I wasn't even sure I wanted to add anymore Artists to it even if they were good. But I ended up listening to "Montezuma" I found the track very good, then I ended up listening to a few of the others songs I managed to make the decision that this would be worth my hard earned cash even if it would throw off the Inner continuem and course of my painstakingly crafted "To Listen" card. And it did I'm pretty out of the loop right now to be honest. But you know what? I dont mind cause this album really is very good. The Atmosphere of the Tracks, which I might add in the day of Computerized beats it's a miracle that any artist can create a cohesive atmosphere between songs but anyways, the Atmosphere of the Tracks is Warm and Inviting one becomes entranced to hold out until the end of the Disc. The album covers many topics from Love, Life, Loss, Death, you might think Death is a morbid subject to sing about and your right by the very definition it is. But yet somehow this Album manages to dig out the hope in the darkness you can almost see the light at the end of the Tunnel. I'm not lying when I say that just reading some of the lyrics from the case( not listening to the song mind you but reading the lyrics) has moved me to tears. And the songs themselves are five times better I highly,highly recommend this album. I'm sure you've noticed the unique cover art as well, it is very mindbending I literally spent ten minutes just starring at the darn thing trying to figure out what it was! It seems to have aspects of all the things on the album, Love, Pain, Humanity, Civilization, and at the very center that unifying circle( or whatever that is) that seems to be the very light at the end of the Tunnel that seems to stretch from our world to the next, that's how I see it anyways. My only complaint about this album is that at the end of "The Shrine/An Argument" ( you can tell it's a good album when they stick two songs together with a slash!) there is a noise that is so Terrible and so awful I cannot imagine what possessed the band to do this. I had read on reviews that there was a bit of Jazz at the end of the track, but being a Jazz fan I wasn't worried, what is at the end of the track however is not Jazz it sounds much more like Sea Lions being hit and crying out in Agony. Thankfully this only goes on briefly and the next track returns the album to glory. All in all a fantastic Atmospheric album highly recommended to all - CM