Fleet Foxes’ Shore shows a sense of quiet resilience in the face of change
“Summer all over / blame it on timing” are the first words you hear upon playing the latest Fleet Foxes album, Shore. It’s a sucker punch of a thesis statement, a profound metaphor delivered with the casualness of a non-sequitur.
The Seattle-based band’s fourth LP exists at the precipice of change, the metaphor of shifting seasons constantly extrapolated to mirror our turbulent society. On Shore, Fleet Foxes stand at the edge of a beach, watching the setting sun slowly dip below the lapping waves. The atmosphere they create is as soothing as a sea breeze, but still bristles with the anticipation and anxiety of the night air: the world is about to change, but how?
Robin Pecknold, the band’s lead singer, sings with an unrestrained, child-like sense of wonder. He constantly sounds like he’s making discoveries for the first time, lending an added weight to his often mundane observations. His honest perspective is refreshing: he even dedicates an entire song (“Sunblind”) to lovingly sing about the many artists that have influenced him. The song is full of lines like “And in your rarified air I feel sunblind / I’m looking up at you there high in my mind / Only way that I made it for a long time / But I’m loud and alive, singing you all night,” but they read as genuine adoration rather than over-the-top idolatry. The track carries a feeling of blissful freedom, like a kid’s last night of summer vacation, a calm before an inevitable storm.
A lot of this record’s emotional weight lies in that pocket. There’s a subtle feeling of nervous tension that never becomes overbearing, an acknowledgement of the oncoming tide without succumbing to its power. There’s a quiet strength in this joy, a subtle act of resistance and defiance in the face of grief. The lighter sounding cuts, like the thumping “Maestanza,” still adhere to this sobering theme. Pecknold’s perspective of isolation is refreshingly positive, drawing strength from shared experiences: “Ache for the sight of friends / Though I’ve been safe in the thought / That the line we walk / Is the same one.”
The production across the album is consistently urgent, pushing some of the heavier topics forward. The opening track, “Wading In Waist-High Water,” features a glorious explosion of sound that bursts through the hazy mix. “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman,” references Philip Glass and Steve Reich with looping guitar lines and chanting numbers, while the somber piano of album closer “Shore” carries a quiet melancholy. Each song is richly textured and expertly mixed, with subtle layers of soft instrumentation lurking below Pecknold’s exuberant melodies. “Going-to-the-Sun Road,” the emotional core of the record, is led by a gorgeous choir of winds that dissolves into barely audible, reedy textures and brass buzzes toward the end.
In the outro of “Going-to-the-Sun Road,” Portuguese singer Tim Bernardes croons “A estrada do sol / O começo de tudo / E as nuvens que agora se afastam / Mostrando um caminho que está sempre lá / E que é qualquer lado que a gente quiser caminhar.” “The road of the sun / The beginning of everything / And the clouds that now move away / Showing a path that is always there / And that is where we want to go.” What a beautiful way to describe an uncertain future: not as dark, foreboding storm clouds, but an inevitable journey that radiates light.
Listen to Fleet Foxes Shore below.