Graded on a Curve:
Fleet Foxes,
Shore

The Seattle-based Fleet Foxes has only released four albums since 2008 on three different record labels, yet they must be considered one of the most engaging groups on the scene today. There have only been three members of the band who have been on all four albums—Casey Wescott, Skyler Skjelset, and the group’s de-facto leader Robin Pecknold.

The group shares some similar characteristics with such bands as Iron and Wine (the brainchild of Sam Beam) and fellow West-Coasters Calexico (led by Joey Burns and John Convertino). All of these groups feature an ever-shifting cast of contributors, making for a musical collective. In fact, Iron & Wine and Calexico have even made albums and toured together. All the bands also share an organic, honest approach to music-making that is refreshing, especially given what’s on the charts these days. This method has also earned these groups a growing and devoted following.

Fleet Foxes has continued to change from release to release, but their latest project Shore (Anti) may its best yet. The music was released digitally on September 22nd, 2020, but recently, it became available as a two-LP, vinyl, gatefold package, complete with a poster. There are 15 tracks on three sides, with side four featuring etched vinyl and no music. Vinyl is the ideal way to listen to this music and the group would have been just as beloved if it was around during the heyday of vinyl albums in the late 1960s through most of the 1970s.

This new album is very much Pecknold’s show, as he sings lead vocals throughout (except for “Sunblind”), produced it and wrote all of the songs other than one he co-wrote. Recorded in three different studios in New York, one in Los Angeles and one in Paris, the release includes 19 different musicians.

Pecknold purposely set out to make an album with a bright warmth that would offer comfort and hope in the face of the worst peak of the Covid outbreak. He listened to a wide range of music and even travelled to Portugal for inspiration. Though not clearly evident in the music here, other than perhaps on “Thymia,” sounds with exotic rhythms was a primary influence.

While much of the writing and recording of the music was going well, there were many unfinished tracks. Pecknold struggled with the lyrics and also had to adjust his recording schedule when New York went into quarantine. The title song refers to the aftermath of a near-death experience Pecknold had when surfing and the relief he felt when he returned safely to shore.

The song “Sunblind” is a tribute to some of Pecknold’s musical heroes, including Bill Withers and John Prine who both passed away recently, as well as some from the past who died much too young such as Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith. Pecknold also pays homage to Brian Wilson, using a sample of the a cappella version of “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” from the 1966 album from The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds on “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman.” Pecknold heard “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” when he was very young and it has continued to be a significant inspiration.

Some of the tracks appear more like fragments that are loosely interconnected. As in the past, the group’s music can have a near hymn-like quality, like it does on “Jara,” which is also timeless, layered and very spacey, and “Featherweight,” which is mournful and has one of the most beautiful vocals on the album and is slightly reminiscent of the pure beauty of Ian Matthews. Tracks such as the aforementioned “Thymia” and “Quiet Air/Gioia” effectively use horns. On “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman” bubbling water sounds echo the theme of the album while simultaneously harking back to some of the music on Pet Sounds that evoked the warm waves of the southern California sea.

In the arid desert of mediocrity that is today’s popular music scene, Fleet Foxes is an oasis of relief that warms the heart and refreshes the spirit.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text