“Shore” is the new album by indie folk band Fleet Foxes. The Seattle-based project has been around since 2006 and is currently comprised of members Robin Pecknold, Skyler Skjelset, Casey Wescott, Christian Wargo and Morgan Henderson. It is their first release since their 2017 album “Crack-up” and the second album since their three-year hiatus.
The album was purposefully released on Sept. 22 right on the autumnal equinox. Recording for the album began back in September of last year which shows that a majority of the record was recorded during the pandemic this year; a situation that helped to inspire the album.
The album is opened with the vocals of guest artist Uwade Akhere rather than the usual lead Robin Pecknold. Pecknold told Apple Music that “a friend of mine sent me a clip of Uwade Akhere covering “Mykonos” on Instagram and I was just in love with the texture of her voice.” He continues, “That was a signal that this was going to be a different kind of album in some ways.”
A statement that especially proves true upon the first hearing the album’s opening “Wading in Waist-High Water.” Despite the usual acoustic guitars and accompaniment expected on a Fleet Foxes album, the vocals help to establish a more melancholic tone than usual. Much of the instrumentation takes a back seat to the acoustic guitar and vocals. They help to provide a subtle background that leads to a crescendo of trumpets and drums. The track then closes out with humming and trumpets that fade into the next track.
“Sunblind” begins with a few gentle chords as Pecknold opens with an ode to artists of the past. The guitars follow his vocals as it builds into a pre-chorus that crescendos into the main chorus where he talks about going swimming in “warm American water with dear friends.” The track focuses on remembering those in the past. In an article by exclaim Pecknold describes it as “keeping people alive in memory.”
Despite the mournful undertones there is a sense of joy in the vocal delivery. In the last verse Pecknold sings that “I’m looking up at you there, high in my mind, only way that I made it for a long time.” The memory of these artists gives him comfort and allows him to carry on.
The following track, “Can I believe You,” is perhaps the catchiest track of the album. According to an Apple Music interview with Pecknold, the hook is made through the combination of the choral voices of “400-500 people from Instagram.” An example of artist interaction that allows the fans to be a part of the music. The song focuses on themes of “trust or believability.” Despite its catchy hook and chord progression it is very repetitive and can get old fast. The song “Featherweight” marks a return to a more melancholic tone similar to the first track. Its progression is in a minor-key. Its vocal hook is soft and stagnated. The lyrics focus on the theme of acknowledging self-made problems. While much of the instrumentation is understated, especially the guitar, the keys manage to come to the front with arpeggiated loops. There is a lack of any real drum-beat in the track.
The instrumentals of “Maestranza” set it apart from the other tracks in the album. The cycling piano at the beginning of the track is reminiscent of Radiohead’s “A Moon Shape Pool” but it quickly turns into a groovy, disco inspired beat. The light acoustic instrumentation carries the verses into the chorus which is accented by licks from electric guitars. The music flows and mimics Pecknold’s delivery of the bridge.
Pecknold’s delivery on “I’m Not My Season” feels like a callback to Fleet Foxes 2011 album, “Helplessness Blues.” The folk music influence is stronger in this track than most on the album. The vocals feel nostalgic and introspective. Pecknold told Apple Music, the song hones in on the idea that “you’re not what’s happening to you.”
The final track of the album, “Shore,” returns to the melancholic sound of the first track. Uwade Akhere returns and joins Pecknold in duet. A piano plays along with gentle snare taps and trumpets join in to match the chorus “while I see it all.” The lyrics fade into the background as they are sampled and loop over each other. The track turns into the sound of a march before gently fading away with the piano closing out the album.
“Shore” is a soft and more subtle release when compared to their earlier work, most notably “Helplessness Blues.” The music is much more understated the lyrics than and it takes time to sink in. However, after a few listens, the album grows on you. The relaxed and introspective tone is welcome, especially in a time of such uncertainty.