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February 2021

Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up

A beautifully produced, cinematic masterpiece.
Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up
Published: 1:34 pm, June 12, 2017
A beautifully produced, cinematic masterpiece.

Label: Nonesuch Records
Released: 16th June 2017
Rating: ★★★★

When a band drops off the radar for more than five years, it can often spell bad news. Fleet Foxes did just that after the touring cycle for their acclaimed second album, 'Helplessness Blues', ceased in early 2012. Since then, fans were left trying to make sense of cryptic posts on social media, while ex-drummer Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, went off to become a star in his own right.

It later transpired that Foxes’ frontman and songwriter, Robin Pecknold, had felt the need to take stock after the huge success of their first two records and had opted for a music and English literature degree at university instead of a return to the studio. While 'Crack-Up' is a reference to an F.Scott Fitzgerald essay, those fearing an inaccessible, avant-garde follow-up can breathe a sigh of relief. What the boys from Seattle have made is a beautifully produced, cinematic masterpiece.

Opener ‘I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar’ follows on, quite literally, from where they left off; the opening chord is a continuation from the closer on 'Helplessness Blues' - a fan theory later confirmed by Pecknold himself.

But where 'Crack-Up' differs from its predecessors is in the sheer scale and sense of ambition achieved in its songs. At times it feels as if you’re listening to a moving picture, while the band exercise enough restraint to prevent it all from sounding too bombastic or overpowering.

Their soaring harmonies weave effortlessly on ‘Cassius,-’’ while the continuously shifting dynamics on single ‘Third of May/Odalgahara’ are worked to devastating effect. ‘On Another Ocean (January/June)', which mutates masterfully from piano ballad to driving rocker, is one of the many highlights.

'Crack-Up' is undoubtedly the sound of a band at the peak of their powers. Maybe more artists should relive their fresher days every once in a while. Alex Thorp

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