IF, AFTER listening to their previous Crack-up, you’d think Fleet Foxes would later turn into a more refined and classy version of Coldplay, you would have probably scoffed.
That such a ponderous and, let’s say it, pretentious effort would be the antecedent to the band’s most likeable and easy-listening record, would have sounded simply crazy.
Not that earlier Fleet Foxes’ material was not enjoyable from a strictly melodic point of view: since their debut EP, Sun Giant, they’ve (almost) always showcased memorable songs, some of which still resonate in the memory of most listeners (“Mykonos”, the Christmas jingle in “White Winter Hymnal”, Helplessness Blues”, and so on).
What makes Shore different from any other albums by the band is that it goes far beyond the borders of the contemporary folk scene, which actually they represented from every point of view.
Admittedly, since the 2000s and the explosion of folk bands and artists, much has happened in the genre and it sounds now that it has lost some of its appeal. Shore is not a repudiation of the style of the band, but merely a scaling up. This is really an ecumenical album, fit for a broad range of listeners. The genre has changed and it sounds like Pecknold and the band have been able to keep up: “A Long Way Past The Past” could have been a track from a Whitney album.
For the nostalgic, there’s the harmonies in “Thymia” and the colourful riffs in “Jara”. But now there’s also the bombastic-sounding pop in “Can I Believe You”, “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman” and “Young Man’s Game”. The fullness of sound does not translate into turgidity, with an orchestral sound that resonates with Other Lives’ work in Tamer Animals. Robin Pecknold’s vocal control also seems to have reached its prime, with remarkably smooth interpretations.
Shore is also a courageously uplifting and spiritual record, which presents itself as such while donating some exquisite arrangements, which take from jazz and world music too (“Going-to-the-Sun Road”, “Quiet Air/Gioia”). It’s also quite a generous record with its 15 tracks.
The only regret that’s left from listening to the album? Not being able to listen to it live with a full band for some time.