Much like Local Natives' album Gorilla Manor took over my summer last year, I'm pretty sure Fleet Foxes' album Helplessness Blues will define this summer.
1) "Montezuma" - Let's not beat around the bush, I'm a choir girl, and the background harmonies resonate just like a boys' choir in this song. The "oh"s that underscore "Oh man that I used to be" are just heavenly.
2) "Bedouin Dress" - I woke up with this song stuck in my head, from the filler guitar riff, to the violin(?) solo filler, to the bouncy "ooh"s. It's a good album for vowels.
3) "Sim Sala Bim" - Witchcraft? I don't know. It's folky and dynamic and I love it. It reminds me of Zeppelin's "The Battle of Evermore", but with less LoTR and more Biblical references.
4) "Battery Kinzie" - This song takes a turn for the Simon & Garfunkel. The consistent harmonies and snappier tempo are pure 60s folk rock.
5) "The Plains/Bitter Dancer" - One of their longer songs, this song has a few movements. The first is mesh of vocal prettiness. The second is a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and/or Young harmony-driven mid-tempo piece marking the comeback of the rock flute. The third is another vocal pretty party, but this time with more sass.
6) "Helplessness Blues" - It's like if Bob Dylan and Paul Simon collaborated on a song and then Simon and & Garfunkel performed it. Meaning, interesting lyrics with an actual melody, and beautifully performed. But what really makes this song perfection is the breakdown at the end where the vocals go from full harmonies to solo Robin Pecknold and back again.
7) "The Cascades" - Instrumental titled for the mountains I can see if Seattle is actually sunny. Again, very Zoso.
8) "Lorelai" - Not this love song, it's full of realizations and regret, maybe. Anyway, it's beautiful.
9) "Someone You'd Admire" - This song is precisely what it feels like to be lying awake at 3am thinking too much.
10) "The Shrine/An Argument" - Another song with movements, this song is some sort of ode to a former relationship. The first movement contains the grittiest vocals I've ever heard from Robin Pecknold, and I wish I could hear more of it. In fact, this haunting part reminds me a little of Traffic's folkier forays. Then the second movement is a chugging train of anger. Yes, I just wrote that sentences. The third movement is just a complete loss of center, complete with disconcerting prog rock woodwind solo. I guess it's a deeper break-up song than "Without You."
11) "Blue-Spotted Tail" - I hate to compare again (that's not true, I'm just using the same example), but solo Paul Simon with a tinge 21st century hipster. Maybe the Shins? But mostly just solo Paul Simon.
12) "Grown Ocean" - New comparison? Fine. Brian Wilson-like precision.
Overall assessment: Similar flavor to their previous work, but more adventurous. I can see echoes of late-60s/70s harmony-driven folk rock and brilliant but sometimes distancing prog rock. I'm just glad it leans more toward the folk rock end with a dash or two of pop. Great album.