Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
After a 6 year hiatus, the Seattle based Fleet Floxes return with an album that reminded me why I consider them to be one of my favorite groups. Frontman Robin Pecknold went away to college and the band’s former drummer went on and became an indie darling, some saying that he’s even eclipsed the band in popularity. A lot has changed since Helplessness Blues, but when Fleet Foxes announced that they were returning with a brand new album, I could hardly contain my excitement. I still maintain the opinion that the self-titled Fleet Foxes album is one of the best albums of all time and that Helplessness Blues is a worthy follow-up. Now, where does Crack Up fit in?
From the opening seconds of “I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar” where Robin sings in a very mellow and soft tone, to the rest of the band coming in to back up in such a seamless way, I knew exactly what I was in for and I wasn’t disappointed. Surprisingly enough, while Crack-Up retains all of the elements that make them inherently great like the warmth in Robin’s vocals and the lush production that gives a very nature-friendly feel, the band saw fit to take a few more risks on Crack-Up than they did on their previous records. This album is the band’s longest record to date. spanning close to an hour, and within that time there are a fair amount of instrumental shifts and changes. The opener shifts between three different songs all over the course of 6 minutes. The transitions are done flawlessly, on this track and also on the lead single “Third of May/Odaigahara”. The album also has a few moments of repetition like the opening of Fool’s Errand or Cassius, -. These moments of repetition are definitely going to turn some fans away from this album, but it’s definitely a welcome change in my opinion.
This album is full of memorable moments that it almost rivals Helplessness Blues. My favorite track is by far the aforementioned “Fool’s Errand”, a track that is so damn beautiful that I was fighting back tears during my first listen. Other highlights include the heavenly Mearcstapa, the rumbling Cassius,-, and the contemplative If You Need To, Keep Time On Me. This band, like no other, makes you feel right at home. I mentioned earlier that one of my favorite things about the band was their overall warm feeling. This was a feeling that I needed and they delivered in full.
The only track I wasn’t very fond of was I Should See Memphis. Lyrically, it’s great with Robin singing about jealousy and the feeling of being lost. Performance wise, this track is far from the typical Fleet Foxes formula. Robin sings in his normal register on this track and it just feels a bit out of place for me. It sounds like a pretty generic acoustic ballad with some ethereal production in the background. He doesn’t sound inherently bad and I can definitely commend Fleet Foxes for trying to do something different, but for me, it was a miss.
This album is damn near flawless. While it doesn’t quite reach the level of perfection as the band’s debut, Crack-Up holds up extremely well in Fleet Foxes’ discography and is one of the strongest releases of the year so far.
Lorde – Melodrama
Pure Heroine was easily one of the best albums of 2013, not only because of the great hooks, lyrics and production, but Lorde’s commanding presence was very fresh for an artist who was still in her teens. .Songs like “Glory and Gore”, “Bravado,” and “Royals” were some of my favorite tracks to showcase this presence. With Melodrama, she takes all of the elements that made Pure Heroine great and upped them to 11.
One of the qualities that I loved most about Pure Heroine was that it was an album by a teen for teens and that is why it resonated so well with younger listeners. She examined of the elements of being young in the, at the time, new internet age. Lorde, now 20, has grown a considerable amount since then and this album tackles all of the parts of being an adult. She tackles these things from a young woman’s perspective and it is done masterfully. Her ability to convey emotions of sadness, love, and hedonism are unmatched. Melodrama, defined, as drama in which many exciting events happen and the characters have very strong or exaggerated emotions. This pretty much sums the album up.
There are so many beautiful moments on this album. “Liability” is a track that sees Lorde charting down a different sonic path. A piano ballad isn’t something that I expected to hear when I listened to the album, but damn am I glad it was there. This track is way more personal than any of Lorde’s previous songs. Lyrically, Lorde sings about how eventually she believes that because of her fame, people will begin to walk away. This piece of songwriting is absolutely stunning, not only from a lyrical and vocal standpoint, but production wise. The spare piano does wonders for this track and it just adds to the overwhelming emotion that the song gives off.
They say, “You’re a little much for me, you’re a liability
You’re a little much for me”
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I’m a liability
The songwriting is top notch across the album’s 11 tracks. In hindsight, Melodrama was the perfect name for this album because of how dramatic some of the lyrics can be. A few of them can be a little generic, like the refrain on Supercut, . Even then, I can excuse some of them because of the melodramatic theme. Production wise Lorde called in Jack Antonoff from Bleachers, who has done work with Grimes and Taylor Swift among others. If you listened to the new Bleachers album (which you should because it’s damn great), you’ll pretty much know why this works for Lorde. Antonoff’s grandiose production lends beautifully to Lorde’s voice and she flows over these songs like butter.
I could go on for hours about this album. The hooks are beyond catchy and the slower cuts like “Writer in the Dark” and “Sober II” hold such emotional resonance with me. I actually teared up at the end of the end of the latter half of the album. This album is going to be landing very highly on end of the year lists come this winter. Lorde wasn’t just able to surpass Pure Heroine, she did in such a way that I can’t see many artists doing with their sophomore albums.