On Fleet Foxes’ Shore, Robin Pecknold shakes off some of the idealisms of his younger self in order to look to the future
Fleet Foxes have been a major force in the indie-folk scene since its height in the late 2000s. Though their style may not be as trendy in 2020, Robin Pecknold continues with Fleet Foxes’ trademark lush autumnal style, while going back to a more gentle, simplistic sonic feel than the band’s last album Crack-Up.
Throughout Shore, Pecknold wears his inspiration on his sleeve. The second track of the album, “Sunblind,” cites many of his inspirations who have passed away before their time, from Elliott Smith to Curtis Mayfield. As the chorus sings “I’m gonna swim for a week in warm American water with dear friends,” listeners are reminded of the recent tragic passing of David Berman of Silver Jews, whose lyrical stylings on the classic album American Water have surely inspired the introspective story-telling approach of Fleet Foxes.
Additionally, the track “Jara” invokes the martyred Chilean activist folk singer Victor Jara, whose music served as the soundtrack to the Pinochet resistance. In “Jara” Pecknold discusses his disgust at the privilege he saw from his fellow New Yorkers as they fled the city during the pandemic, as the singer-songwriter explained to Rolling Stone. With these songs, Pecknold sees the darkness in the stories of musicians gone too soon, but instead of dwelling on the sadness, he thanks them for their work. And by pairing the lyrics with upbeat and plucky tunes, the songs look toward the future with hope.
Shore doesn’t only look back on history in a big-picture sense, but also takes a reflexive look at Pecknold’s own past thinking. On “Young Man’s Game,” Pecknold critiques the naive immaturity of his younger self. With lyrics like “I’ve been solving for the meaning of life/No one tried before and likely I’m right” and “I could worry through each night/Find something unique to say,” he satirizes young people’s assumptions that their ideas are novel and important, despite what may be lots of information to the contrary.
This theme plays off of their cult-classic 2011 record Helplessness Blues, where Fleet Foxes looked to turn away from the chaos of the ordinary world to an idyllic rural life. With these records in conversation, it’s apparent that Fleet Foxes has grown up from a notion of escapism and fantasy of a pastoral life to an acceptance of the here and now. Pecknold isn’t happy with the current pandemic moment, but he tells the listener to ride through it rather than to escape into delusions of what your life could be that only exists in your mind.
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