Two years from their last release, Fleet Foxes are back again with a surprise LP. Shore takes its time to unpack — with a runtime of almost an hour — but the beauty and warmth that this provides makes that time well spent. Lush harmonies and hymnal choruses are abound, with rich instrumentation that will leave listeners soaring through the autumn breeze. In this record, Robin Pecknold exudes a great sense of gratitude and acceptance for the present. His tone is full of jubilation, and it’s infectious in every song. We get a sense that a heavy burden has been lifted from his shoulders and now he’s free to let everything go. Songs are grandiose and hypnotic without pretense, it has complexity that lifts up and soothes instead of alienating its audience. A refreshing record from an artist that’s clearly refreshed in terms of headspace and musical direction.
Pecknold’s themes and lyricism doesn’t slack either, there is as much emphasis in here to being a writer as there is in being a musician. In “Sunbird” he pays tribute to all various artists that have influenced him, a list which includes Richard Swift, Jude Sill and Jeff Buckley among many others. Illustrating their legacy with bright melodies and shimmering harmonies that juxtapose them with the radiance of the sun. In “Jara” he eulogizes a Chilean folk singer who perished against an oppressor, reflecting it with our current society today.
Another strong theme is Pecknold’s reinvention over the years, as he reflects on their past and looks at the further evolution of their sound. “A Long Way Past The Past” is somber and nostalgic, as he looks back to his storied career: “Oh man, was it that much better then? / We were left alone, we were proud of our pain”. In “Young Man’s Game”, he recollects the naivete of his youth and yearns for a way to let loose: “I could worry through each night / Find something unique to say / I could pass as erudite / But it’s a young man’s game”.
All of these threads coalesce into the epic “Cradling Mother, Cradling Women”. Which is the culmination of the journey–sonically and lyrically dense in every turn, where Pecknold ties up the whole record with a weighty conclusion: “I’ve been bright, I’ve been faded / I’m nearly halfway through / Barely believe we made it / When I met eyes with you”. The LP ends with the title track, which flows over aqueous keys and soothing horns. An uplifting end to a wondrous experience.
Shore redefines what a folk record can sound like. Out of all the records we’ve reviewed this year, this stands out as the best in terms of craftsmanship. I wouldn’t be surprised if people herald it as a classic. At the very least, it will be something that people will keep reference in the future and will be a landmark in Fleet Foxes’ discography.