"Crack-Up" is the Most Complicated Fleet Foxes Album Yet
Back in 2008, Fleet Foxes arrived with the sort of perfectly-realised debut album that was bound to impact the music scene. And impact it did, with an explosion of indie folk artists coming hot off their trail, from Mumford & Sons to First Aid Kit (the latter of whom pay quite a literal debt to the Foxes). The group knew they were onto something good, and their excellent 2011 follow up, Helplessness Blues, didn’t change things much so much as fine tune it. After two classic albums, the unceremonious departure of Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), the shaving of beards and six long years of waiting, the question was, where would Pecknold and his gang go next?
The answer: deeper, weirder and louder. Crack-Up is more dense, experimental and orchestral than ever before. The songs on here are packed with ideas, with irregular song structures and sudden detours galore. Opener “I Am All That I Need’ starts the album off with barely-discernible murmurs, before a sudden bout of instrumentation jolts the listener to attention. There is nothing on Crack-Up that really approaches the immediacy of, say, “Helplessness Blues” or “Mykonos”, so patience is necessary.
However, give this album the time it needs, and the rewards are endless. This is not one of those experimental albums artists do to mask the fact that they have no idea what they want to do next. Crack-Up is a cohesive body of work, and is best treated as such. Sure, there will be songs you’ll repeat more than others (lead single “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” is one of their best to date), but the flow and pacing of this album means there is never a dull moment, even when things get quiet on tracks like the affecting “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me”.
Just as Fleet Foxes deliver some of their most interesting music to date, Robin Pecknold has never sounded sharper as a lyricist, with most songs about trying not to do what the album title suggests. While the Foxes haven’t made grand political statements like their recently-vacated member Father John Misty (thank God), Crack-Up manages to balance universal statements while looking to the world of the present. The aforementioned “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me” was reportedly informed by post-election blues, and the anxiety of that November is palpable in the song’s atmosphere and words. There are many poetic turns of phrase to be found- for example, the clever use of homonyms on “On Another Ocean (January / June)”.
Crack-Up is a perfect progression of the Fleet Foxes sound, and well and truly holds up against their stellar discography. For best results, sit back shut out any distractions and let the music sweep over you while reading along with the lyrics. I guarantee, it’ll be a music experience like nothing else you’ve heard this year.