Archive for the ‘Fleet Foxes’ Category

Helplessness Blues – The Song

November 6th, 2011 No comments

I figure the best way to start with this song is actually posting the lyrics:

Lyrics to Helplessness Blues :

I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
Unique in each way you can see

And now after some thinking
I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me

But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

What’s my name, what’s my station
Oh just tell me what I should do
I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night
That would do such injustice to you

Or bow down and be grateful
And say “Sure take all that you see”
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls
And determine my future for me

And I don’t, I don’t know who to believe
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see

If I know only one thing
It’s that every thing that I see
Of the world outside is so inconceivable
Often I barely can speak

Yeah I’m tongue tied and dizzy
And I can’t keep it to myself
What good is it to sing helplessness blues?
Why should I wait for anyone else?

And I know, I know you will keep me on the shelf
I’ll come back to you someday soon myself

If I had an orchard
I’d work till I’m raw
If i had an orchard
I’d work till I’m sore

And you would wait tables
And soon run the store

Gold hair in the sunlight
My light in the dawn
If I had an orchard
I’d work till I’m sore

If I had an orchard
I’d work till I’m sore

Someday I’ll be
Like the man on the screen

I have been stuck on this song for the last month or so.  What I find awesome was that I completely disagree with my review on the song (and my review of the Fleet Foxes) album.

It’s not that I am wrong (or that I think that I am wrong) but rather the song has amassed a meaning beyond that of a single narrative and yet carries enough weight with it to be, in my opinion one of the best songs of the year.

After seeing the Fleet Foxes at Pitchfork Music Festival this summer and re-inspiring my desire to listen to their latest album, it’s made some inroads up the Zimmermann Notes charts as one of the best of the year.  I complained in my earlier review about it’s lack of politics or social pursuits and I believe that my review shortchanged this just a bit.

As of late, it has been the Occupy Wall Street movement that made me refocus how this music will have a lasting effect as its title track is chilling as it explores the impetus of the generation making their case against the world.

I posted the lyrics as a whole because I think they need to be recited. Part of me listens to the first three stanzas of what has been written as Generation Y’s prelude to Occupy Wall Street.

However, it’s more this innate desire to return humanity to a more natural state but also a call to action.  It tilts the emotional scales with its beauty providing a sense of purpose and understanding for those that feel trapped in similar scenarios. The generation that distrusted corporations at the same time lives off corporations has to try to balance out the inequities of life and reevaluate their own. We hear the protagonist wish to work the land, to work in an orchard, creating their own fruits of their labor, feeling a sense of accomplishment and still able to appreciate the beauty in the world (‘gold hair in the sunlight’).

‘Helplessness Blues’ is a timeless treasure, one that will be redefined in my head for different causes and events, but a song that should be examined for it’s depth for the era that we are living in now.

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Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Review)

May 11th, 2011 No comments

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

(4 Stars out of 5)

The Fleet Foxes are becoming the modern day Simon and Garfunkel. Robin Pecknold with his plethora of backup vocalists have modernized the folk genre to the point that in 20 years the next up and coming band will be called the next Fleet Foxes.

‘Helplessness Blues’ is a sophomore effort that doesn’t stray too far from their debut album that shot to the tops of the critic’s charts.  While the album offers less pop and more atmosphere, the key to their sound is that they avoid the trap of ‘Folk’ albums that sound like ‘Folk’ albums. It’s one thing having poignant lyrics and it’s another where you can combine that with beautiful melodies.

For me, folk music is a genre that has never quite inspired me to search out the deep cuts of any particular artist with a few exceptions. Often those exceptions where rooted in pop acts that had great lyricists to begin with.

And while I would describe the Fleet Foxes as one of the better bands of the 21st Century, one of the flaws I see, and this being a minor one at that is songs like ‘Battery Kinzie’, and ‘Helplessness Blues’, don’t provide the power of the band that I mentioned earlier (Simon and Garfunkel). Helplessness Blues is a very personal album and often the “Lost Love” songs don’t pack the same power that a poet and a one-man band can carry.

Take songs like ‘America’ and ‘Homeward Bound’, which are more about trying to find our place in our culture. Or take a more contemporary artist such as Jeff Tweedy who pondered in ‘Ashes of American Flags’, “I wonder why we listen to poets and nobody gives a fuck”.  It might be because as Pecknold ponders in ‘Helplessness Blues’:

And now after some thinkin’

I’d say I’d rather be

a functioning cog in some great machinery

serving something beyond me.

But I don’t I don’t know what that will be.

I’ll get back to you someday

Soon you will see.

In our post 9/11 world we are asked to remember and yet we write about our own personal battles.  Pecknold’s in many ways admitting right here that very failure; “How can I figure out the battles going around me when I am still trying to get past my own?”

It might also have to do with the fact that more than ever we are being raised to be individuals rather than members of society. We cannot function in teams or as part of a unit. There are strong political beliefs that ask for more individual rights with less reliance on the public sector.

Montezuma expresses that same sentiment: “Oh how could I dream of, Such a selfless and true love, Could I wash my hands of? Just lookin out for me”

Conversely, since Jeff Tweedy and Wilco made the great American album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”, the future work has proved to be much more about internalizing everything.

In an age where we can see photos and video from our fingertips, I want to see a band try to tackle that subject.   While I might be hard on the Fleet Foxes, it’s my thought that they might be that band.  While the album provides the tools to be one of the great folk rock albums of this era, it needs to go further.

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