2011 was an unbelievable year for music—at least for what I listened to and still do. Love & War & The Sea In Between by Josh Garrels, Children of Fire by Oh, Sleeper, and Vice Verses by Switchfoot were among the best albums released by Christians within a decade (pre-high school I almost exclusively listened to “Christian Music” or music made by people who claimed to be Christians). However, this was a time in my life where I began to branch out of mainly listening to music from Christians by finding some amazing records from people regardless of their religious ties like Foster the People’s Torches, Of Monsters and Men’s My Head is an Animal, and Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues.
Of these records, Helplessness Blues stood out in particular. It brought me to a place I had never been before. It made me want to explore nature and the outdoors. It made me want to take a road trip across the U.S. and into the north west. It made me feel like there was something I was missing. And it made me want to go on a journey to find it.
From the get-go, it is evident that Fleet Foxes’ newest record and third full-length LP—Crack Up—was not Helplessness Blues Pt. 2. The melodies are so different, less reliant on catchy hooks and more focused on depth. This is much less of a record full of great singles compared to an album whose songs are symbiotically dependent upon one another. Crack Up is far more difficult to sing-along to this record. But it feels like one of those records that has so much underneath the surface that the listener needs time to let all layers fall off listen by listen. And those layers are beginning to peel for me even as I listen right now.
What I most commend Fleet Foxes for is embracing the challenge of creating a relative folk record in 2017. That wave of folk that was overwhelming 5 years ago has died off quickly and become overtaken by Alternative music. Fleet Foxes could have abandoned their roots for the sake of feeling relevant. Or they could have chosen the less ambitious course and wrote more pop-folk like songs. Instead, it seems that they pushed themselves to their limits creatively and have produced arguably their best album to date and also arguably the best album of this year.
What is crazy about Crack Up for me, is that I will actually be able to experience it on a journey. Tory (my fiancé) and I are getting married this Sunday and are traveling to Hawaii the following week. We will be spending our first week of marriage in a place we are both looking forward to going, but also with the people we are most excited to be going with. This will be one of the few records we will let be the soundtrack of our trip and one I anticipate will become nostalgic. Rather than longing to find what I was missing, I believe this record will represent what I have found and the never-ending journey of continually rediscovering that joy.
Album Artwork: 10/10
Top 10 Potential: Yes