Helplessness Blues is latest offering from Seattle folksters
Helplessness Blues 4/5 Sometimes, we wonder when this insatiable demand for all things folksy will end. Not that we’re against it; we just wonder if it’s born of a desire to escape our accelerating modernity and will eventually peter out, or if we might eventually all end up dancing quadrilles while a clavichord plays. Who knows. Most sensible, then, to simply plunge into the folksy best and ignore the rest.
The best includes Seattle’s Fleet Foxes. Whatever their view of tradition, these country/folk-rockers wrangle both US and UK forms – and ’60s/’70s takes on them – their own way. They described their 2008 debut as ‘baroque pop’, which is no less accurate of the follow-up, but now their complex-yet-airy arrangements, lush reverb and gorgeous, glazed harmonies have been nudged back toward their roots in hillbilly gospel, round singing, protest song and ’60s psych folk. This is personal, secular music that assumes a near-spiritual depth on the hymn-like ‘Battery Kinzie’ and luminous ‘The Shrine/An Argument’. Whether you’re a believer or not, Fleet Foxes are a reason to give thanks.