More Predictable Plaudits for Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues

Two more notable reactions to Fleet Foxes' new sophomore LP for Sub Pop, Helplessness Blues popped up over the weekend: Andrew Matson's lengthy profile in the Seattle Times, and Pitchfork's 8.8 "Best New Music"-awarded review of the album today. (Read the Seattle Weekly's exclusive Twitter interview here.)

Matson (full Music Critic Illuminati disclosure: he's a friend) touches on a lot of points in his profile, including: what Fleet Foxes' success means for Sub Pop (basically, a few big, friendly acts have always funded a substrata of less commercially viable artists); where the band fits in the current "neo-folk" crop; their history and context in the local music scene, from early days at the Old Firehouse to shrugging off current folkie hub Conor Byrne; how Fleet Foxes is a Pecknold family affair, with each member of the clan playing a role from management to making music videos or guitars; Phil Ek's importance in crafting the album's wide-open sound; even Pecknold's reticence to give interviews, and how the local press (Seattle Weekly included) has worked around that.

Matson also goes to some pretty great lengths to position the album as a literal reflection of Seattle and its surroundings, writing:

Fleet Foxes' layered vocal harmonies are sometimes like the audio equivalent of a ferryboat ride from Anacortes to the San Juans, with the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges on the distant horizon... But there's a sophistication to the band that also reflects our scrubbed post-Microsoft urban landscape -- glassy skyscrapers with clouds reflected in the windows.

Meanwhile today, over at Pitchfork (full Music Critic Illuminati disclosure pt. 2: I also contribute reviews to Pitchfork), Helplessness Blues scores an 8.8 (out of 10) rating and--unsurprisingly--receives the site's "Best New Music" designation, with a review written by Larry Fitzmaurice. This being an album review, Fitzmaurice talks more in-depth about the music itself and the mechanics of the album than does Matson, contrasting the more somber mood of Blues (vs. the Sun Giant EP and their self-titled album) with the band's increasingly expansive sound, as well as making a case for Pecknold's growth as a songwriting and lead singer (as opposed to lead harmonizer).

I appreciate the reporting behind Matson's piece, and kind of wish he'd had room to go longer telling Pecknold's story, and I agree with Fitzmaurice's review--I make no secret that this stuff isn't my main bag, but even I can appreciate the expansive sound of this album and occasionally get sucked in by its finely crafted melodies.

That said, I like a good joke as much as the next guy.

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