Album review: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

The exalted American folksters had much to live up to with this sophomore effort, and it looks like they’ve cracked it, expanding their sounds while ploughing a darker, deeper furrow.

After such success with 2008’s self-titled debut, the fey, hip choral-folksters have returned with a more cavernous sound and broader musical palette (tympani, marxophone or Tibetan singing bowls, anyone?).

While their life-affirming, unpretentious and breezy choral-folk had a wide appeal, others were turned off by its lack of passion and intrigue. This sophomore effort, with the title track at its core, is a more pithy, purposeful animal.

Lead singer and songwriter Robin Pecknold dumped an album’s worth of songs before penning these, confronting the universal disquiet of our own significance, measures of success and self-worth.

Fear not though - such philosophical conundrums are painted poetically and swathed in psych-folk, urgent folk rock and grander arrangements that embolden the emotion and build tension. A blooming marvel.

4 stars