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Shore: An Album Review

The Pixies shaped the 90s and LCD Soundsystem connected the mid 2000s. In a similar manner, Fleet Foxes’  chamber folk music loomed and influenced the early 2010s. They’ve recently made a comeback, blessing us with their most recent album Shore. 

Fleet Foxes are an accomplished Seattle-based indie folk band formed in 2006. Most popularly known for their 2008 hit — and one of my all time favorite songs — “White Winter Hymnal” from their self-titled album. They have reinvented themselves after drummer Joshua Tillman (aka Father John Misty), left the group in 2012.

After a six-year hiatus, the folk band, led by guitar player and singer Robin Pecknold, dove back in by releasing their 2017 album, Crack-Up. This album is about Pecknold’s existential crises and feelings of alienation that he tries to work through while occasionally alluding back to their debut self-titled album.

Their newest album Shore was abruptly released on the previous autumnal equinox. Within this album, Fleet Foxes come to an understanding that while they are not necessarily a very old group, they are no longer the trend-setters. Despite this, they are happy and at peace with the idea of aging and with their legacy.

Pecknold admitted, “I see Shore as a place of safety on the edge of something uncertain … tempted by the adventure of the unknown at the same time you are relishing the comfort of the stable ground beneath you. This was the mindset I found, the fuel I found, for making this album.” 

Pecknold and guests (none of his core band) take us on a voyage across land, picking up where Crack-Up left off. Pecknold’s voice isn’t even the first one you hear. This was used as a compliment to his new instrumentalists. On the aptly named “Wading in Waist-High Water,” Uwade Akhere pulls us onshore, with the song’s steady tempo quickening in its last rush.

Throughout the record, there is a newfound humility and readiness to share the stage. “Sunblind,” an homage to musicians who have passed away, even has Pecknold proclaiming: ‘I’m overmatched.’ Pecknold’s passion for life, his delight in spite of — or because of — death, is evident. Gloomy figures creep into the edges of his songs — e.g., ‘These last days/Con men controlled my fate’ from “Maestranza.”

It’s almost as if their invitations to give into self-pity or hate are necessary to propel Pecknold toward music that’s rich and fulfilling, without becoming overly sentimental. Every second seems like it’s been earned. The album’s climax arrives on the back half of the propulsive “Quiet Air / Gioia,” where Pecknold exalts: ‘Oh devil walk by/I never want to die.’

They have transformed the anxiety and worry prominent in Crack-Up, into gratitude and acceptance on Shore. Instead of abandoning their major-key melodies and his dreamy vocals, Pecknold actually leans into the joyfulness on songs like “Sunblind” and “Young Man’s Game”.

There’s a looseness to it, as seen by the lighthearted “For a Week or Two” and “Thymia,” where Akhere implies that Pecknold doesn’t feel the need to lead the way or make a big statement right away. As though peering into the darkness and reacting with beauty, acceptance, and brightness, Shore looks out at the world and understands there is already enough. Facing the inevitability of aging and fading is quite worrisome for many, but in the words of Robin Pecknold: ‘I could worry through each night/ Find something unique to say/ I could pass as erudite/ But it’s a young man’s game.’

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