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Fleet Foxes - Shore (Album Review)

Thursday, 24 September 2020 Written by Huw Baines

Fleet Foxes’ music has rarely been less than beautifully arranged and performed, but has it sounded this warm, this inviting, before? On ‘Shore’, Robin Pecknold appears to have entered a new phase in his writing, one where the opulent, painterly melodies of ‘70s singer-songwriter fare have been quietly introduced to the meandering, texturally exciting existing strengths of his work.

It might have been released with minimal notice, but this is a record that has been laboured over from composition to sequencing. In tandem with engineer and mixer Beatriz Artola, Pecknold has assembled a meticulously detailed world for these songs to inhabit. Even in the record’s most straightforward, hook-driven moments there is something going on in the background, flickering, whirring, keeping us engaged.

Following the more austere ‘Crack-Up’, Pecknold has embraced a quiet sort of excess, layering these songs with ringing guitars while foregrounding the richness of his voice.

Sunblind, which follows the delightful opener Wading in Waist High-Water, delivered with low-key gravitas by vocalist Uwade Akhere, is the record’s ace, ditching metaphor and misdirection in favour of something more tangible.

Over sunlit guitars and a skittering hi-hat Pecknold tips his cap to his heroes—among them Richard Swift, Judee Sill, David Berman, John Prine, Bill Withers, Elliott Smith—before slipping into a masterful chorus like the most studious lounge lizard in history.

“I’m gonna swim for a week in warm American Water with dear friends,” he sings, referencing getting lost in Silver Jews’ third album while suggesting that we might reasonably do the same with ‘Shore’.

Records that hold the mechanics of creating records so close to their hearts are a tricky business, as rigid attention to craft and form can bypass heart, momentum and all that other good stuff. ‘Shore’ is remarkable in the sense that it functions equally well as an exercise in engineering as it does a living, breathing celebration of music, from influences through to songwriting smarts and the act of capturing a performance.

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