Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fleet Foxes - Helpless Blues quick review

It's inevitable that most bands are going to be derivative of their influences and a lot of the time, that's ok. For example, I love the Neil Young-ism's of Built to Spill and Band of Horses and it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of them at all. That said, I can't stand Vampire Weekend because why would I listen to them when I own Talking Heads records. Similarly, I continue to struggle with Fleet Foxes because when you're dealing in harmony laden pastoral folk, the opportunities to be innovative seem to be less and less and the echoes of your influences drown out the music you're listening too.

I guess it's all a matter of taste but I find it hard to get excited by this new wave of folk because it's almost too reverential to it's forebears. Listening to Helpless Blues I couldn't help but think of Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I kind of hated myself for it because it's very easy to be dismissive of music by saying it sounds like someone else but not really taking the time to listen to it. But through multiple listens, I couldn't detach myself from that feeling. That's not to say there isn't joy to be found here - the unexpected acoustic rock out at the end of Sim Sala Bim is bracing and fun while the title track is actually a pretty great song.

I'm sure this album will be received with orgasmic praise by many because it'll probably sound totally new to anyone under 25 and a sheer nostalgia rush for anyone older. But for me, much of my music listening life has being railing against the lionising of the '60's - the constant taunt that music will never be better than Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles. I recognise how great some of that music is but not at the expense of the music being produced today. Fleet Foxes is just too close to their influences for me to really embrace them. However, if you liked the first album, I'll bet you a can of sprite you'll love this one too. Helpless Blues is streaming here.


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