Oh, the breakthrough first album. It’s a blessing for some, a curse for most, and an unimaginable burden to carry for artists just in it for the music. With one of the most stunning debut records of the last decade under their belt, Fleet Foxes undoubtedly felt this weight. And what the band has accomplished in spite of it is nothing short of a triumph. For Helplessness Blues, the Seattle-born folkies move from big, harmony-driven flourishes to something that feels like thoughtful restraint. Influences run the gamut, from Simon & Garfunkel to The Byrds to The Beach Boys, and songs move from rollicking mandolin pop (“Bedouin Dress”) to stark acoustic folk (“Blue Spotted Tail”) to lush twinkling waltzes (“Lorelai”), yet sound quintessentially Fleet Foxes, brimming with thoughtfulness and poignant, narrative-driven lyricism. This is honest music making done right, and proof positive that some great achievements can be topped.


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