2020, Music

Shore (2020) by Fleet Foxes

I remember when Fleet Foxes debuted and there was a lot of buzz and I thought I should check them out and now it’s over 15 years later and I never did. I’m starting with the last album because of course I am.

I listened to a lot of “indie” and independent music in the second half of the aughts that I would not otherwise have approached, mostly due to obsessively reading Exclaim! and checking out their raves or their featured albums on their website. My overall experience of this was that I had either way higher standards than the reviewers I was reading or I liked every different things (or both!). I have definitely softened a fair amount I think, especially when it comes to my ratings and how open I try to be to music I don’t get or don’t like, but I still feel like there was a time when “indie” music was rhapsodized about to a degree that now seems laughable. (How many of these bands – especially Canadian ones – are still remembered or still loved?)

Of course I didn’t listen to Fleet Foxes and the time and I have yet to hear their debut so whether or not 27-year-old Riley would have thought them horribly overrated like he found so much other stuff, I cannot say. But listening to their most recent album I find myself wondering about the hype back then. Now, this is, according to fans, their weakest album, so I need to keep that in mind.

So this is…gentle chamber folk and chamber pop that is rendered “indie” primarily because of Pecknold’s voice, I guess. (And, like, a couple of weird guitar fills, and stuff.) It’s the kind of thing I can imagine my 20-something self having a visceral negative reaction to not because I think it’s bad (it’s not bad!) but because hype led to me to listen to something that struck me as middling. Some of that would have come from the perceived influences. At some level, a lot of this music sounds like a more sophisticated take on ’70s folk pop (a genre I mostly detest with all my heart, even now) with less conventional songwriting, more interesting arrangements and an aesthetic that definitely feels like “21st century indie” to me even though it lacks basically all the warts I associate with early indie music.

Everything about it is well made. The songs are pretty good with a few standing out. The arrangements are creative. The energy level could be higher but I think that’s part of the appeal here. I think generally it sounds good, even if I don’t always love the mix. It’s good.

It’s not my thing. I am more open to this stuff than I was 15 years ago – when I might have hated something like this, or at least ripped on it for how sedate and polished it was – but I prefer chamber pop/chamber folk as part of a broader musical palette or with more dynamism than is often displayed here.

This is absolutely fine and I understand why some people really like this band. But I do think it’s kind of hilarious that this is the sound of one of those bands that I was told I couldn’t miss out on in 2008. I did miss out on them and I have no regrets. (That sounds mean but I just mean that it’s fine.)


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