Quick Review (LP): Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues
Sub Pop; 2011

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Montezuma", "Bedouin Dress", "Sim Sala Bim", "Helplessness Blues", "Lorelei", "Someone You’d Admire"

An “old soul” soul record.

– Let me just get this out of my system: it is not humanly possible to top their debut LP and its accompanying EP.
– I think that is my favorite opening lyric in a long time: "So know I am older/Than my mother and father/When they had their daughter/Oh what does that say about me?"
– "Montezuma" is almost beautiful enough to reduce you to tears from the outset.
– Sounds like Fleet Foxes, but there is a wholly organic growth and realization here. They certainly aren’t resting on their laurels.
– Also, Pecknold is one of the most unconventional songwriters I’ve ever heard. Wonderful!
– Love the fiddle on "Bedouin Dress." And the lyrics…magnificent! "The borrower’s debt is the only regret of my youth." "Just to be at Innisfree again/All of the sirens are driving me over the stern."
– I saw these guys play the Ryman a few weeks ago. It was transcendent. Here’s clip of Robin performing "Oliver James." Again, it makes me tear up just thinking about how beautiful it was. Divine.
– Gettin’ their Led Zeppelin on during "Sim Sala Bim."
– Man, "Helplessness Blues"… you gotta love the heart on the sleeve. What a triumphant tune.
– "Lorelei" is beautiful. Sounds quite a bit like Dylan’s "4th Time Around."
– Gorgeous melody on "Someone You’d Admire." Recalls Simon & Garfunkel.
– "Grown Ocean" never quite reaches the heights of grandeur that I hope it will. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s missing. Anyone want to take a stab?
– There are a few less than transcendent moments on the record – "The Cascades", "The Shrine/An Argument" – so it’s not perfect by any means. However, it’s still pretty great, and a worthy follow-up to one of the best debuts ever.

Cohesion (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Mercury by Follow the Train

Follow the Train
Removador; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Movin”, “Coffee”, “Mellwood”, “Division”, “Seamless”

One thing seems certain; the band’s songwriter has an outstanding sense of melody and majesty in a late 80’s/early 90’s alt-rock sense. Witness: “Movin”. Yessir. Wow. Let’s play that again. And again. Opener “Coffee” features a great vocal performance as well, and more melancholy bits like “Mellwood” (saxy) and “Nowhere Night” (urban lonesome) really shine as well. As I’ve said before, they remind me heavily of Afghan Whigs, with some of the mighty blues of Zeppelin thrown in for good measure (“Division”, “Mercury”) and a big midwestern heart. I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t be playing big stages at summer festivals, because this is one of the best albums of 2010.

Band website & listen to album
Removador page & listen to album
SGB Breath of Sigh review

Tracks of the Decade: “One Big Holiday” by My Morning Jacket

“One Big Holiday”
by My Morning Jacket
from IT STILL MOVES (2003)

What a decade it was for My Morning Jacket. At the outset, Jim James was a college dropout with a vision, a guitar, and an eccentric fascination with reverb. At the close, he was the iconic, internationally-recognized frontman for one of the biggest rock bands of the post-rock age. “One Big Holiday”, the band’s fantastical auto-biography in song, has remained its official anthem throughout. It was the track they played on Conan, their first performance on (American) national television. It’s the track that you can expect them to play whenever you see them live. Simply put, it’s a ragged, un-polished, knuckle-headed piece of Americana hard rock, one of the best in recent memory. There’s no semblance of restraint to be found, no indication of anything but sheer intention to be the greatest rock and roll band since Led Zeppelin. Additionally, there’s the indelible mark of James’ musical persona, from the opening declaration (“…good and lee-em-buh!!!”) to the final line (“all the leather kids were loud!!!”). Has there been a better rock and roll track about escaping your hometown and making it big since “Born to Run?” None come to the mind of this music obsessive. Back in 2001 & 2002, everyone talked about this or that band saving rock and roll. So much for that. It never needed “saving”, but it always needs someone to find its heart. My Morning Jacket, above all others, has managed to do just that.