One might have predicted a somber release for Fleet Foxes in the year of a pandemic. After all, their last album “Crack-Up” was darker in tone, touching everything from police brutality and internal turmoil to disbelief following the 2016 presidential election.
But the autumn equinox release “Shore” punctuates a different reality — hope. The dissonance of 2017’s “Crack-Up” is replaced with the reassurance that this is another season that will pass like the seasons before it.
The 15-track “Shore” sees lead singer and principal songwriter Robin Pecknold combine some of the more experimental elements of “Crack-Up” and marry them to the brightness found on preceding albums. There are lush soundscapes, fluttery brass cacophonies and subdividing rhythms.
Fleet Foxes offers solace in a year otherwise marked by turbulence. Even the recording process managed to break down a barrier of isolation. Pecknold, wanting fluidity and a swell of voices to accompany his melody on “Can I Believe You,” reached out to fans on Instagram to gather the vocals. The track features hundreds of voices who answered his call.
The idea that both hope and pain, past and future, can co-exist is displayed in “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman.” Like the two different time signatures counted out in the beginning (one of which is sampled from Brian Wilson’s “Don’t Talk”), the ideas, while seemingly misaligned, fall into accordance as sounds layer. “One and the same/The drought and the rain to me,” sings Pecknold.
On “Sunblind,” Pecknold pays homage to past musicians (“Every gift lifted far before its will”) with references to albums like Silver Jews’ “American Water” and Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or.” Again, there is an acknowledgment of the past, but in a way that throws into sharp relief the potential that lies ahead and the legacy that is carried into the future. “I’m loud and alive/Singing you all night.”