Less an album, more a treasure trove...

Nothing says Autumn quite like a new Fleet Foxes record. Face facts: summer is gone, temperatures are mellowing out, leaves are beginning to fall, and Robin Pecknold’s band are hear to soundtrack the unleashing of your cardigan collection.

That’s not to say ‘Shore’ isn’t welcome, though. Far from it – indeed, few are better are constructing those honeyed indie-folk moments, with the inherent dewy-eyed nostalgia of their sound pulling at the heartstrings in a way practically no other group can.

Given a surprise release, ‘Shore’ opens with the one-two of ‘Wading In Waist-High Water’ and ‘Sunblind’. We’re at once in familiar territory – the blissful melancholy of the vocals, the emphasis on group performance over individual daring. Yet the band still ease outwards into fresh territory – the billowing instrumentation, the gentle surge of the melody reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins gone folk.

The gorgeous, keening vocals on standout track ‘Can I Believe You’ bely the quiet complexity of the rhythms underneath, a song in perpetual motion. ‘A Long Way Past The Past’ makes Autumnal introversion seem wonderfully intoxicating, while ‘Young Man’s Game’ is a subtle piece of reflection from a group who have always sounded older than their years.

What’s remarkable about ‘Shore’ is just how natural, how unhurried everything is. A surprise release, it ends a three year wait for new material in some style, a broad record of real depth that contains moments of striking beauty. Take those counter melodies on ‘Jara’ - almost Brazilian in their light-fuelled wonder – of the soft assertions that run through the majestic ‘I’m Not My Season’.

That said, when Fleet Foxes play to form they assume the indie-folk throne with real assertion. ‘Quiet Air / Gioia’ is a master-stroke, while the atmospheric ‘Going-to-the-sun Road’ might just about soothe the ample anxieties thrown up by this chaotic year.

Produced by Pecknold itself, ‘Shore’ is a consciously ‘big’ record – indeed, when referring to the process, the songwriter labelled the album “15 big ones”. It’s a collection of mile-wide vistas, of endless horizons, a vision of Americana as an infinite expanse, a perpetual source of personal comfort and aesthetic reinvention.

It’s a record that sets its shoulder to the wheel, a blast of light in the darkest of times. Whether that’s the simple choral unison of Medieval miniature ‘Thymia’ or the agonised emotion of ‘Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman’ this is a collection of songs that dominate their role in emphatic fashion.

As natural and inviting as the curling of the leaves, ‘Shore’ is Fleet Foxes at their best. A voice of comfort for an atmomised generation, this is less album, and more treasure trove.

8/10

Words: Robin Murray

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