Album Review: Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

By Devon Hannan, Editorial Director
[Nonesuch; 2017]
Rating: 9.5/10

Key Tracks: “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” “Fool’s Errand,” “Crack-Up”

Fleet Foxes’ essence of grace and unadulterated beauty is never dull in a world that seems to have everything but (*ahem* Father John Misty). And while the world doesn’t revolve around one single being (*AHEM* Father John Misty), Crack-Up stresses the importance of self-reflection in such a way that is grounding and humble. After six long years, Crack-Up serves as a reminder of how lucky we are to exist at the same time as Fleet Foxes.

Crack-Up perfectly encapsulates the reality of the never ending progression and growth as a human being. Bridging common conceptualities seen across literal millenniums, the mastermind behind the indie folk project, Robin Pecknold, draws comparisons between himself and one of the most tragic villains of all time, Julius Caesar’s Cassius. In the balance of exquisite songwriting, there exists a blinding romanticism. The impending fate of ancient Rome reflects changes found within Pecknold himself and the light found burning inside other people: “But I can make it through / I was thin and I saw All Life in you” (“Fools Errand”). Within this epiphany, Pecknold found that within losing there comes a life worth living.

While these themes hang loosely throughout the entirety of the album, that is not to say each track doesn’t offer something a bit different. Whether that be the distinguishable bass line and almost math-rock vibe in “Mearcstapa,” or the experimental distortion in “I Should See Memphis,” Fleet Foxes toes the ever-so-thin line between creating a cohesive album, and something interesting.

Also to note: The transitions between (and within) tracks are a key ingredient to what makes this album so compelling. “On Another Ocean (January / June),” for example, has one of the smoothest, yet jaw-dropping transitions in the history of indie folk. The nonexistent space between “Cassius, -” and “- Naiads, Cassadies” restores the art of listening to a full album front to back.

What is even more impressive is that despite Crack-Up’s vivid contrast, the album fails to house a single bad track. The eruptions of harmonies and instrumentation in “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” and “Crack-Up” drip with energy while “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me” is Crack-Up’s sweet ode to loss and tragedy. Crack-Up sits comfortably at the top of Fleet Foxes’ discography because of its pristine production quality and the band’s fearlessness to experiment with instrumentation that often goes untouched by other modern folk bands.

The only flaw within Crack-Up could fall in its inaccessibility to those who may not be too keen on listening to a full album. The tracks are long, and each and every one complements the next. While songs can absolutely be listened to individually, they pale in comparison than to when they are listened to side by side. Crack-Up doesn’t have one single track that is going to end up in the next decade’s worth of indie movies (thank god), but its entirety radiates the idea that a war waging in Rome can amount to the inner conflictions within one man.

Crack-Up continues Fleet Foxes’ cry of devastating truths seen on their previous albums but the quality and motion of this release are what puts it above anything Fleet Foxes has ever done before. The wait for this album may have been a long one, however, an album with this much artistry comes out once in a lifetime. Crack-Up beautifully manifests the idea that Fleet Foxes is no stranger to the bold understanding that history exists.

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