An album brandishing the title Crack Up is guaranteed to raise some eyebrows. But when that album also bears the name Fleet Foxes, you sit up and take notice.
Bursting on the scene with their majestic self-titled debut, Fleet Foxes quickly became associated with a new folk sound that swept through popular music. With their heavenly vocal harmonies and refined lyrics, the folk tag seemed a natural fit, albeit one that overlooked the more idiosyncratic elements that made up the band’s sound.
With Crack Up, frontman Robin Pecknold has gone out of his way to shrug off the folk label, and in doing so, has come up something a little less obvious, occasionally a little less palatable. While fans will be relieved to hear that the gorgeous harmonies haven’t completely been dispensed with, they will need to come to terms with the album’s more-than-occasional spikiness.
Starting with the opening track, Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar, with its whispered vocals and sparse musical arrangement, Fleet Foxes are not about winning the listener over with sweetness. It is an approach that doesn’t let up, culminating in the album’s closer (also titled Crack Up), which grates as much as it gratifies.
This desire to forge a new path should be applauded, and while the finished product comes across as quite uneven at times, there are enough arresting moments on the album to keep you hanging around.
If Crack Up is a preview of where Fleet Foxes might be heading on their next LP, then we are surely in for a treat. For this is a band that is genuinely interested in pushing itself beyond its comfort zone.
These foxes might not be so musically fleeting nowadays, but they might just have something to say. Chris Prindiville
‘Crack Up’ is out through Warner Music.