Album Review

Crack-Up

Crack-Up

by Fleet Foxes


Nonesuch
9 / 10
29th June 2017

Reviewed by Gerry Le Roux


The uniquely pastoral chamber folk of Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut, with the gorgeous voice of Robin Pecknold front and centre, proved a runaway critical (and commercial) success upon its release in 2008, with many critics hailing it a modern masterpiece. Helplessness Blues, released three years later, upped the ante with more complex arrangements, while retaining the key elements of the Fleet Foxes sound.

Fleet Foxes, whether through direct influence or coincidence, became associated with the neo-folk movement popularised by bands like the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. Yet, the Foxes were always a breed apart, and this has never been more evident than with the release of their long-awaited third album, Crack-Up. A densely atmospheric, impressionistic record, the latest Fleet Foxes album all but obliterates the boundaries of neo-folk – it’s blend of dense instrumentation, complex rhythms, multi-tracked vocals and even electronics sound samples exist in a universe all of its own.

Pecknold’s disregard for commercial success has to be admired. Even more so than earlier Foxes albums, there’s no whiff of crowd-pleasing here. The "lead single", 'Third of May / Odaigahara', is a nine minute opus likely to alienate the typical Spotify track-jumper in the first minute. Crack-Up plays like a coherent, traditional album, rather than a mere collection of songs. It rewards repeated listens, making the listener work to unearth its multi-layered beauty.

As experimental and impenetrable lyrically as it is musically, this is an album that will no doubt continue to impress and surprise the attentive listener on repeated listens. It’s the sound of a band in love with sound, a band led by a visionary front-man not afraid to follow his meandering muse.

Crack-Up can be pretentious. It is also passionate, panoramic, paradoxical, polyphonic and deeply personal. Ultimately, it is pure Fleet Foxes. And it is very close to perfect.





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