Six Years I Waited

Pardon me, but it is Fleet Foxes day! Nothing will exist for me today but the new album, Crack-Up.

My favorite band from this century released their first new album in six years. My life has seen a great many changes since the last new Fleet Foxes album, I nearly died and everything else but my love of this band never subsided.

Those harmonies! My ears.

This band and their music reside deep in the tissues of my heart. Their music carries such a significance with me that I would never publicly discuss some of the reasons why on a blog but damn that 'magic.' My mind listening to their music instantly goes to mountains, deep forests, fresh air and the rest is too privately tragic to share while sober. It is the old story of heartbreak.

Was the wait of six years between albums worth it for me now that the new album has landed full and wide?

It is intricately beautiful music that at times veers over the cliff into self-indulgence only to save itself from crashing onto the jagged boulders below. Some of the abrupt changes during some of the songs are like watching an action movie with jump cuts that are so quick and disorienting that you become dizzy and you don't know what the hell just happened.

A look at the song titles and I sense that this album is taking itself too seriously and the names are borderline preposterous. I feel like I have downloaded one of those chill/lounge/downbeat albums where I don't really know any of the artists but they sure have cool sounding names.

I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar opens the album with mumbling vocals that are lulling you asleep before it jerks you awake at the one minute mark. Oh yeah, now I'm excited because there is a new album from Fleet Foxes. This song sets what for me is the theme of this album and that is a series of unfinished sketches from a person suffering from multiple personality disorder. At times, I don't know what the band is playing, where it is going with these songs and the whole thing is incongruous.

Cassius begins and ends with the most unnerving sounds and I am reminded of Portishead's The Rip (especially at the 2:12 of the Portishead song). I didn't think I would ever have Fleet Foxes remind me of a Portishead song which by the way is one of my other favorite bands of all time.

Naiads, Cassadies opens like a Doors song. I was hearing strains of The End for a moment there. The song then drifts off into this peaceful song that floats into the territory of Sunday morning background music.

Third Of May/Odaigahara is easily the most accessible song on an album that is a more mature and dark version of Fleet Foxes of years gone by. Third Of May comes launching at you like a horse bolting out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby. This is definitely the Fleet Foxes I remember and it almost feels like it could have fit on a previous album.

Kept Woman is another song that one can easily like. It has the luscious harmonies you expect from the band and overall takes on a somber tone. But..the awkward lyric of, "you rose to be ossified." I know what ossified means and most people probably do too but using it in a song sounded so forced and unnatural. I listened to that lyric several times and I had to suppress my laughter. This was one of those moments where the band was teetering on the precipice of the cliff and almost plunged down toward the sharp rocks below.

If You Need To, Keep Time On Me feels like a pretty piece of filler music like a puff pastry or flowery wallpaper. The song title keeps repeating over and over and isn't going anywhere.

Mearcstapa features the prettiest guitar lines of music on the entire album in the middle of this song. I have listened to this song several times and I keep going back to that guitar solo and can't shake my feeling that it sounds like something from Radiohead's Kid A album. Maybe it is Everything In Its Right Place that I am hearing?

On Another Ocean (January / June) is an okay enough song that begins well enough but never goes much of anywhere. Then it gets cute and adds a saxophone at the end of the song as it fades out. This an example of where a producer should have stepped in and said this is beyond trite.

Fool's Errand is where this album gets back on the tracks after some bewildering turns down some blind alleys. We get some straight-forward music and some serious singing again. The piano at the end centers this album and gives you hope that the band does care whether you like their music and this just isn't some kind of inside joke they are playing on their audience.

I Should See Memphis begins and I feel like I am watching fuzzy old home movies on a film projector. Then comes the American Civil War references and I'm thinking oh dear god this is getting silly. Did he really just sing Manassas and Appomattox? Oh yes, he did and damn it guys this is stupid.

Crack-Up gives us one last chance to soar on the harmonies like eagles over the mountains and to remember what we enjoyed about this band on previous albums.

This is still Fleet Foxes, but this album feels like it was half written using random words out of Encyclopedia Britannica and the other half was one unsatisfying masturbation session in front a mirror for the band. I know bands evolve over time and that's to be expected - I still love Goldfrapp after all these years and they've never made anything close to resembling Felt Mountain ever again. Yet Crack-Up is more of a mashup of songs with pretentious titles. What I missed most from this album was what made me fall in love with them years ago and that was honest and beautiful music.

I'm all for artists taking risks, but it would seem Fleet Foxes didn't think taking six years between albums was a big enough risk for them. Instead, they decided that musical risks were needed too and I would agree, if I felt like they were remaining somewhat true to their earlier sound. This album is so schizophrenic that it feels both simultaneously unfinished and somehow overthought. Crack-Up tries too hard to impress.