Released at the exact moment of Earth’s yearly autumnal equinox, Shore, Fleet Foxes’ latest album has so much more than just great timing. Crossing the boundary into uncharted territory, away from the dour, melancholic sonic vistas laid out in their previous album, Crack-Up, Shore simply leans full kilter into this album with distinct hopes for a fresh start.
Relentless, exquisite melodies are a familiar treat for long-time fans, especially with the epic soundscapes that poke through and the use of an impressive breadth of instruments (is that a sitar?).
This is balanced well against the wistful lyrics. Fortunately, the band never quite tips into the edgy pageantry of neckbeard-stroking abstract. Each song simply shoots out an emotional knock-out that never falters in its heart as frontman Robin Pecknold yells out in “Young Man’s Game”: “It’s a young man’s game”. Rhythms lap lovingly at the fringes, cresting with such outstanding elan and folksy reverb that you can’t help to smile at, noting the cheekiness that the song’s narrator treats himself with.
I love it.
But it isn’t to say that all this is entirely upbeat stuff, especially as an upbeat jazz tune of “A Long Way Past the Past” closes off with the statement that the song’s narrator will “be better off in a year or two”. The narrator’s realisation of the tragedy of defining themselves as more than someone wrapped up in their own memories, is but one gut-punch; as the melody crossfades into “For a Week or Two”, the initial hope slowly twists into despondency. It’s at these thoughtful moments that Fleet Foxes truly is their best l; creating songs that resonate so well, all while crashing drums and melodies give way to birds chirping. No one has a solution, really. But you have music.
As the band darts from hope brimming at the edges to soul-crushing angst, Fleet Foxes continues to truly represent what is so breathtaking about life; jetting out note-perfect jams that pluck at each heartstring. Heavy as some of their material may be, they’re a perfect way of cleansing a musical palate for the new year. Hear them out.