Monday, May 16, 2011

Quarterlife Crisis

Around the age of 25 men start to look at their life and start wondering where they stand. Comparisons come with other people of their age and with their parents at that age. Children, work, still studying, it’s all different but you can’t help comparing. Robin Pecknold is like all of us, realizing in the first line of the new album “Helplessness Blues” that his parents already had a kid. He is just back with his girlfriend and finally released the long awaited follow-up to the eponymous debut.

The beautiful title track explains a lot of his thinking of his place in the world, as a ‘cog’. A song with questions that everyone has at one point in their life. Who am I and what is that world outside really like. Realization comes in ‘Lorelai’: “so, guess I got old, I was like trash on the sidewalk”. “Helplessness Blues” is an album with more questions than clearcut answers, or as Pecknold sings in ‘Blue Spotted Tail’: “Why is life made only for to end?”.

Musically the album gives us nothing new. Expanding on the sound of the debut along the lines of all the great westcoast folkies from the 60’s and 70’s: Byrds, Beach Boys (the opening bars of ‘Lorelai’, Neil Young etc. The focus is on his vocals, harmony background vocals and acoustic instruments. While lacking the radio “hits” it features some future classics in “Battery Kinzie”, the title track and “Someone You’d Amire” which should be able to silence a crowd of 80.000. The sound worked on the first one, it does so again on the second.

The real strides have been taken in Pecknold’s songwriting. “Helplessness Blues” is a much more personal and mature record that for people in the same age group might be at times confronting but also rewarding. So I wasn’t alone when I thought those things that spun around in my head.

I was still mucking about at university at the age Pecknold and his Fleet Foxes made an impressive second album. Best album of 2011 so far. It’s been worth the wait and questions.

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