Review: Fleet Foxes Capture the Autumnal Equinox on New Album "Shore"

Updated: Sep 23

JAY BURGIN


With little promotion (save a few cryptic Instagram posts), Fleet Foxes has released their fourth album, Shore at 13:31 universal coordinated time (9:31am EST) today, September 22nd, 2020 to coincide with the autumnal equinox.

Fleet Foxes' Shore via ANTI- Records


Following their long-awaited hat-trick Crack-Up in 2017, ANTI-’s newest release is noticeably long; there are 15 tracks worth almost an hour of music. In an equally lengthy artist statement, Pecknold wrote philosophically of the album's origins and inspirations, citing Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, and more:

"I wanted to make an album that celebrated life in the face of death, honoring our lost musical heroes explicitly in the lyrics and carrying them with me musically, committing to living fully and vibrantly in a way they no longer can, in a way they maybe couldn’t even when they were with us, despite the joy they brought to so many. I wanted to make an album that felt like a relief, like your toes finally touching sand after being caught in a rip current."

For an album that celebrates healthy separation from the concept of time and space, it hits the listener as uniquely pertinent for our current milieu. Relief is the common theme, and Fleet Foxes embrace a calm steadiness in 4:4 time. Their new batch of songs seem to indulge a need for cadenced reassurance in a moment when everything seems to hit out-of-step.


Surely, there is still the classic Fleet Foxes sound we've come to love: the ever-thumping kick drum, the dense harmonics, the awkward tooting of the horns, and the expansive lyrical imagery with intense meaning. But on Shores, bandleader Robin Pecknold is more straightforward, accepting conventional song structures and instrumentations of the current indie rock world on tracks such as "A Long Way Past the Past."



This album is notable for featuring collaborations with female vocalists as lead vocals, following suit of The National's I Am Easy To Find. The first voice heard on the album's is not Pecknold's, but 21 year-old singer-songwriter Uwade's tender and washed-out alto timbre.


Similar to the National's most recent work in more ways than one, Shore is also conceptualized as a visual album, as is accompanied by a 55-minute film shot by Kerstijan Werdal on Super 16mm, streaming on the band's website. It was also partially recorded at The National's remote Long Pond Studio in Hudson, NY.


Don't confuse this one: it is a rock album, not a folk album. Collaborating with Daniel Rossen and Chris Bear (both of Grizzly Bear), Kevin Morby, Michael Bloch, and Hamilton Leithauser, this album feels more in-step with the current independent rock music scene than the out-of-left-forest neo-folk albums Fleet Foxes made before. Pecknold's vocals are angsty, the drum kit is used fully, and there are distorted electric guitars.


Shore climaxes on the brilliant penultimate track "Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman" which features a cloaked "Don't Talk" Brian Wilson sample and "Fake Empire"-esque horns. If the album falters anywhere, it is on the title track, which is a bloated, unsatisfying closing track that may have faired better in the middle of the tracklist.


Despite the album's lack of closure, Shore sees Fleet Foxes branching out, challenging their fans, and subverting their own sound in the correct way. Harnessing harsher, adroit tunes that emphasize organic rhythm and intentionally simplistic melodies, Pecknold and company deliver their creed. Their latest work is indeed "untouchable by whatever the state of the world may be at a given moment, whatever our season."

Shore is out today via ANTI-, with selected tracks right here on Inhailer Radio.


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