Fleet Foxes surprises with the feathery musings of “Shore”

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Courtesy of Genius

“Shore” is a poignant, sharply written album that fits snugly in Fleet Foxes’ discography.

Tucker Lang, Staff Writer

Fleet Foxes come through with a shimmering collection of tracks on “Shore,” showcasing what makes them a special folk force, along with a unique and catchy flair. 

Robin Pecknold, the creative force behind Fleet Foxes, has been on a personal journey of finding his purpose and place in the world since 2008. The musical journey that’s come along with that is something to behold. 

Whether it’s the studied folk-isms of their sun-kissed self-titled 2006 debut, or the existential yet romantic “Helplessness Blues” in 2011, or even the obtuse and progressive musings of 2017’s “Crack-Up,” Pecknold has undergone noticeable changes and has taken his audience along with him. Fleet Foxes has released some of the century’s best folk music, while staying relatively indie and only releasing music when inspiration struck. 

“Shore” is the band’s fourth studio record and surprised most fans. Rather than releasing on a Friday like most major label releases, Pecknold released “Shore” in tandem with the September equinox at exactly 6:30 a.m. Sept. 20. The band members’ poetic relationship with nature and the rustic environment around them makes the record’s unique release make sense. 

This album finds Robin Pecknold in a fairly new state of mind and sonic territory, far cleaner in recording quality than the typical rustic and dry sound of Fleet Foxes. Electric guitars are soaked in reverb, pianos shimmer and washed out vocal harmonies make certain songs glossy and primped up. 

One could say there is a bit more pumpkin spice thrown into this new record, but Pecknold doesn’t skimp on the risk-taking either. From the bright horn sections on “Going-to-the-Sun-road” to the scattered vocal harmonies on “Jara,” this album finds harmony in pristine sounds and compositional adventurism.  

The blissful “Sunblind” is a perfect opening number after a meditative intro from Uwade Akhere. Pecknold’s radiant voice leads us into a comfy chorus that sways naturally. 

With the following track, “Can I Believe You,” Pecknold demonstrates his songwriting chops with the closest thing to headbanger Fleet Foxes has ever made. The nimble transitions and  glistening guitar embellishments make this an accessible and fun track. 

“Featherweight” sees the band take on familiar territory with picked guitars and a melody that rocks you back and forth into a dream-like state, and “Maestranza”’s surprising foray into a rock groove doesn’t stray from top-notch chorus writing and features a climactic finish. 

The following track, “Young Man’s Game,” is a smile maker with its vocal harmonies tightly arranged and effortlessly floating above the instrumentation. The record ends with the abstract and forlorn title track, which brings back cinematic horn sections and jazz drum timbres, cycling and repeating as if to hypnotize the listener. 

Pecknold’s poetry has always had a distinct personality depending on which album you’re listening to. The debut has homespun woodland references, “Helplessness Blues” self-reflects and “Crack-Up” has abstract oceanic symbolism. His lyrics are versatile, personal and purposeful. 

In 2020, Pecknold  is focused on telling the stories of those around him, from references to injustices on “Jara” to “Sunblind,” which honors a host of artists and songwriters. The lyrics of “Shore” also deal quite a bit in memories, loss and staying connected. Pecknold sometimes sees memories as something to hold on to, and sometimes they’re merely waves breaking on the shore  until they’re gone. 

Pecknold’s songwriting is still poignant as ever. “Shore” is a sharply written, lavishly arranged album with dense layers of guitars, strings and horns and a sense that Pecknold wouldn’t rather do anything else. These songs are an exercise in his love of music, as well as his love of storytelling. With “Shore,” Fleet Foxes has released a beautiful album that fits snugly within their discography but still holds a special place in their journey of finding themselves.