Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
Fleet Foxes’ first album in over six years opens with ‘I Am All That I Need’, a dissonant, 60-second long ramble that sounds freeform and impromptu, but nonetheless completely meaningful.
It’s a curious intro – purposefully so, no doubt – and it sets us up for Fleet Foxes most challenging record to date.
While darkness abounds, so does beauty.
The next movement, ‘Arroyo Seco’, sounds a little more like what we’re used to from the band.
It gallops in a similar way to some of their earlier work, but there’s a more haunting undercurrent, courtesy of a staid lead guitar half-buried in the mix.
Then comes ‘Thumbprint Scar’, the final part of this opening three-part suite, and the most uneasy part of what has been a pretty perturbing song.
It opens delicately, just acoustic guitar and the glorious harmonies that have always been the band’s most notable calling card.
‘Are you alone? I don't believe you. Are you at home? I'll come right now. I need to see you,’ Robin Pecknold sings.
There’s a lot to take in on just this first track of Fleet Foxes new record, and it doesn’t end there. It’s immediately evident why Pecknold took such a long time to return. The music is often complex, the way the band moves between its regularly quite contrasting movements sounds effortless but no doubt presented as much of a challenge as the grandiose arrangements Pecknold put together for the musicians present here.
There are truly stunning passages of music throughout the record. The throbbing hum that breaks up ‘Cassius’ and leads into a wash of maddening piano and a violin line that cuts through the din. The classic, sweeping string arrangements that give tracks like the epic album centrepiece ‘Third of May / Ōdaigahara’ a regal, cinematic feel.
There are the requisite lowkey moments – ‘If You Need To, Keep Time On Me’ is up there with Fleet Foxes most palatable – and the straight-ahead indie gems, a category that ‘On Another Ocean (January / June)’ undoubtedly fits.
As well as being generally complex, Crack-Up is dark; neither Pecknold’s lyrics nor the stunning music that complements them have much cheer. Just when you feel like there’s some light creeping in, you read a little more into the lyrics and find something sorrowful. Or the music turns, and you’re feeling down again. But, while darkness abounds, so does beauty. Hopefully that’s enough consolation.
Crack-Up is a deeply considered piece of music that probably won’t be as immediate as some of their earlier work, but could well stand up as Fleet Foxes strongest work over time.