|Add Date:||2017-07-20|| ||Pull Date:||2017-09-21|| |
The long-awaited return of Fleet Foxes would be celebration enough even if their new album was anything less than fantastic. Fortunately, Crack-Up is every bit a worthy successor to Fleet Foxes’ previous outings. Everything you loved about the band is back—Robin Pecknold’s plaintive singing and introspective lyrics, the heavenly vocal harmonies, the cavernous reverb. Crack-Up is their most progressive album yet; Pecknold explores new musical territory through more complex songwriting and instrumentation, and his lyricism has grown even denser. (Topics include the Civil War, ancient Mediterranean history, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald essay that gives the album its title.) Sometimes the lyrics can be difficult to unpack, or the music can be overwhelming in its prettiness, but this album rewards repeated listens. It’s an easy album to fall in love with, especially if you’ve loved what came before it.|
Favorites: 2, 3, 5, 7, 9
1) “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar” (6:25) – Three-part suite. Quiet first minute opens up into choral vocals and strummed guitar, with brief returns to the mumbled vocals of the intro. Short piano passage after the four-and-a-half-minute mark, followed by a return to the other two forms.
2) “Cassius, -” (4:50)* – Also a quiet start, but slowly builds in intensity. Verses feature a strange, skipping synthetic sound, as well as repeating percussion; chorus sounds like classic Fleet Foxes. The last minute features woodwinds, strings, and piano, and runs directly into the next song, so be prepared to fade out. Alternatively, you could play them both together.
3) “- Naiads, Cassadies” (3:11)* – Despite what I said about the last song’s ending, no need to fade in at the start. Pretty straightforward folk rock, with warm electric guitar over acoustic guitar. Strings and piano take over in the bridge, which begins a little after the halfway point and ends just after the two-minute mark. (You can end the song with the last 0:17-0:13 remaining—there’s a little acoustic snippet at the very end, but it doesn’t cut off the track awkwardly.)
4) “Kept Woman” (3:55) – Repeating motif played on acoustic guitar and piano. It’s a beautiful track, but maybe it’s a bit too quiet, slow, and sad to play on the air.
5) “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” (8:45)* – The lead single. First half is more of that classic Fleet Foxes sound—vocal harmonies and strummed guitar, with ringing electric guitar at the end of verses. Song changes shape around the three-and-a-half-minute mark, becoming driven by electric guitar and strings. After 6:30, the song becomes a lush, dewy acoustic instrumental (If you feel so inclined, you can fade out from 3:26-3:44, or from 5:38-5:48, or at any point after 6:30, when the “Ōdaigahara” section begins. Or you can play the song’s single edit off of YouTube. Or you can read a PSA / promo over “Ōdaigahara.” Or you can sit back and play the damn thing in full as it’s meant to be heard.)
6) “If You Need To, Keep Time on Me” (3:31) – Reverbed acoustic guitar with piano flourishes. Pecknold sings alone on the verses, joined by backup vocals on the chorus. Song bears the date “January 20, 2017,” implying it was written in the aftermath of our unmentionable president’s inauguration, but more than anything else, it’s a declaration of patience and support for a loved one. Probably the most straightforward song on the album.
7) “Mearcstapa” (4:10)* – Despite sharing a title with the acronym for Monsters: The Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory and Practical Application, the song’s title appears to come from an old English word, meaning “march stalker” (or, per Pecknold’s translation, “border walker”). Glimmers of electric guitar melt with clickety-clackety percussion and, later, horns and strings. Pecknold described this song as a mix of The Beach Boys and Can. I dig it. I dig it a lot.
8) “On Another Ocean (January / June)” (4:23) – A song in two halves. The “January” half is driven by piano, while the “June” half (which kicks in at about exactly the halfway mark) is carried by a repeating electric guitar riff.
9) “Fool’s Errand” (4:48)* – As propulsive as folk rock gets—percussion keeps clicking along, while a warm, subtle synthesizer helps lift the acoustic strumming. The chorus feels lighter and higher than the verses. After the second chorus, the song carries on into something like a bridge, before abruptly ending just after three and a half minutes. The last minute of the song is a very quiet piano instrumental. (Feel free to end the song before that, or read a PSA / promo over it.)
10) “I Should See Memphis” (4:44) – Something about this song feels weightless. Acoustic guitar and strings dance along as Pecknold sings in a lower register. Civil War battles and Egyptian mythology filter into post-election malaise. The last minute of the song features quiet, heavily reverbed vocals that are virtually unintelligible, as well as some sort of feedback that cuts off abruptly at the end of the song. (Fade out early if you see fit.)
11) “Crack-Up” (6:24) – Quiet acoustic guitar and piano, with faint horns in the background, for the first minute and a half. Then the song changes pace and gets louder, with guitar and piano galloping along while horns and strings swoon. After 3:40, the song changes again, becoming a slower, horn-driven affair that lasts until the end of the song. (The last 0:35 is practically dead silence, so skip it.)