Fleet Foxes


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I got a new microphone and that is literally the least interesting thing about this week’s show. Everything else is better, and I think my new microphone is brilliant.

Rage Against The Machine – Microphone Fiend (YSI)

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Last week’s Folk Bloke featured me making up a stupid story about the Australian bush before introducing a song. I’ve still not figured out, given that the show is pre-recorded, why I didn’t cut it out of the final show. It is silly.

The Shins – Australia (YSI)

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Buddy Holly – Listen To Me (YSI)

This was originally written for The Courier, which I’ve just finished editing. Forever. Good night, sweet, proof-read prince:

You can say a lot with an album cover. Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut revealed the band’s character, with depictions of rustic, pastoral life and religious imagery all bathed in the glow of the watching sun. If we take the same approach to the cover of Helplessness Blues, things seem a little more confusing three years on. That busy image of humanity is certainly still present, but in twisted form, and that sun sits at the centre now, unfamiliar, almost alien.

That’s exactly the feeling that reveals itself in the sound of Helplessness Blues. This is their trademark sound; lilting, harmony-laden, but with new purpose. Singer Robin Pecknold opens the album (on ‘Montezuma’) with, “So now, I am older/ Than my mother and father/ When they had their daughter/ Now, what does that say about me?” These are no longer stories about people and their actions, these songs are questions of what it is to be a person, and all the uncertainty that can bring. This is manifested in shifts throughout the album, with the gentle Simon & Garfunkel-esque acoustic plucks of ‘Sim Sala Bim’ giving way to the echoing choruses you’d expect of the band, before dropping away again and building to a wordless, furiously strummed outro. Some songs end prematurely, with ‘Someone You’d Admire’ seeing Pecknold questioning his dual personality and admitting ‘God only knows which one of them I’ll become’ – the song mirrors his indecision, ending soon after with as little resolution as Pecknold himself seems to come to.

Helplessness Blues is an immaculately constructed affair, on the surface providing more of what the  fans were after; beautiful, fragile folk songs. But look deeper and there’s a new introspection present, reflections of turmoil that weren’t present on the first album. Fleet Foxes have almost imperceptibly changed, but it’s that image of the sun that returns again in the eight-minute breakup saga of ‘The Shrine/An Argument’ – in the first time we’ve heard Pecknold’s voice crack, he shouts ‘sunlight over me, no matter what I do’. That warmth of Fleet Foxes’ music is still there, but it has new, darker implications, and is all the more interesting for it.

Fleet Foxes – Someone You’d Admire (YSI)

Glastonbury Day One

I would apologise for my long absence (again) but frankly I have a pretty good reason this time – I was at Glastonbury, and then spent a few days recovering from the pure psychic shock of how unbelievably awesome it was (or just moving house, whatever you prefer). So without further ado, here’s my review of the best festival in the world.

I could start with what happened on Thursday, but not a lot did to be honest. After a gruelling drive, followed by a gruelling walk, followed by a gruelling tent building session, we were ready to rock on Thursday. Unfortunately, it was rather late and we were all very tired, so we caught the end of the brilliant Metronomy and went to bed. The End.

So, determined to be far more productive, we awoke on Friday and got to work. I started with Regina Spektor on the Pyramid stage, who, armed with a grand piano (which I kept wondering how she got into a field in Somerset unscathed), a violinist and a cellist managed to wake everyone up with her own brand of beautiful music. Whilst maybe not suited to such a big stage, she got a great reception from the crowd, and songs like “That Time” and “Laughing With” were positively lovely.

Making our way to The Other Stage, we saw The Maccabees next. I’ve never failed to be impressed by the band, and this time was no exception, their show is just so tight, so joyful and so brilliant time after time. Playing a perfect mix of their brilliant new material (new single “Can You Give It” seemingly brought out the sun over a cheering crowd) and their brilliant older material (“First Love” as always got the biggest cheer of the set, and rightly so) they charmed the crowd into dancing, smiling and admiring continuously.

Running back to the Pyramid to catch Fleet Foxes, we caught the end of N.E.R.D., one of the special guests who were, frankly, a little poor. In fairness, they were faced with technical difficulties and a shorter set, but apart from their singles, which I do like, their album tracks all seemed a little samey. So thank god for the timely appearance of Fleet Foxes who weaved their harmony-drenched folky goodness all around us, and soothed the atmosphere of the whole field. I thought throughout, “this is the music Glastonbury was made for”.

Friendly Fires came next, and presented me with something of a conundrum. On the one hand, their live show is bloody amazing, and I’ll always be a little biased because it’s nice to see people from my school playing Glasto. On the other hand, the singer, Ed Macfarlane seems like a self-righteous, self-aggrandising cock who dances like an arse. After announcing, seemingly without humour, that the sunshine was down to him alone, followed by not smiling during the entire set, not in a cool Will Self miserablist style, but an almost uncaring way, I felt a little like I was meant to be impressed. In fact, I was  impressed by the rest of the band and their amazing musical skills. Ho-hum.

My final musical act of the night was the best of Friday, hands down. The newly-reformed Specials walked onstage to an absolute explosion of noise, and proceeded to play a set that matched the crowd’s expectations and then some. Never shying away from their hits, and with Terry Hall and Neville Staple whipping the crowd into a frenzy in their own ways, they lit up the Pyramid stage and immediately turned me from a casual fan into someone who wants to listen to everything they’ve produced. It was an absolute revelation, and if you get the chance to see them I urge you to do so.

Now, it may seem a little like evil, but I then missed watching Neil Young to go and see some comedy. But honestly, the difference Glastonbury (and therefore an abundance of drugs) makes to comedians is hilarious. Some, like Matt Kirshen and Tom Stade, become incredibly good, others, like Glenn Wool, essentially have breakdowns on stage and don’t stop talking about their divorce. Still more, like Andrew Maxwell, take their shirts off and shout at breakdancers to go faster. It’s really very interesting. Anyway, that’s Friday done, and I’ll post up the second part of the review tomorrow, for now, enjoy some choice tracks from the day:

Regina Spektor – That Time (YSI)

The Maccabees – William Powers (YSI)

Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal (YSI)

Friendly Fires – Skeleton Boy (Single Version) (YSI)

The Specials – A Message To You Rudy (YSI)