While most of us have turned inward this year, Fleet Foxes have opened back up. Shore, the follow-up to their impenetrable, depressive third album, the long-awaited Crack-Up, cut the incubation period in half and delivered the most drastic departure from the trajectory of their first three. The group’s opening act consisted of increasing abstraction, psychedelia, and obfuscation, but with Shore, Fleet Foxes have changed, stripping themselves occasionally of their folk roots in favor of glorious chamber pop, recruiting string and brass players, pianists, fellow singers like Uwade Akhere, Kevin Morby, Tim Bernardes, and hundreds of fan recordings featured in the massive “Can I Believe You?”. Alluding to their pastoral roots while inviting global influence, Shore adds up to a rapturous, beautiful album, exciting from song-to-song and featuring Robin Pecknold’s best vocal performance yet. After a sort of foreword led by Akhere, the album explodes into “Sunbind,” an immediate entry in the list of Fleet Foxes’ top songs, serving as a clear thesis of what’s to come. Pecknold starts by introducing his past influences, eulogizing Richard Swift, John Prine, Bill Withers, and David Berman and assuring them he’s “met the myth hanging heavy over [them].” It’s in their memory he sings joyously of creating music and swimming in “Warm American Water.”
It’s expectedly clever and unexpectedly summer-y, an atmosphere sustained throughout the album. Typically fall guys, Fleet Foxes embrace the optimism of the instances furthest from their seasonal depression, singing “That’s that, we’re a long way from the past / I’ll be better off in a year or in two” in “A Long Way Past the Past.” They renounce their autumness further in “I’m Not My Season,” a ballad continuing the deterministic ideas presented on Crack-Up, this time inverted and hopeful. “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman” links back to screaming brass in Helplessness Blues and brings a dreamy quality as Pecknold lulls over babbling trumpets before abruptly starting “Shore,” an art-pop epilogue impugning times he’s fallen into the darkness. It’s all so glossy, almost harshly pretty and perfect. While one may long for some of the crunch present in their earlier work, Fleet Foxes, vis-à-vis Shore, have opened doors facing forward in endless directions.
Published as part of Ledger Line | Q3 2020 Issue – Part 1.