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.