• Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

Review: Fleet Foxes, A Sky Like I’ve Never Seen

ByCharlie Barber

Feb 3, 2023

This new single flounders in reverb so thick that its riches are almost undetectable. Compare it with their homely debut album, which was reverberant but judicious. There, the reverb is only applied to Robin Pecknold’s barbershop harmonies (as on Sun It Rises), or introduced at the end of the song to suggest wistful recession. Those long melodies and fanfare-like guitar riffs are kept dry to create contrast. A Sky Like I’ve Never Seen uses the kind of industrial reverb as the Eden Project sound effects which Pecknold seems so eager to emulate.

The song was written for the soundtrack of a new Amazon documentary about a veteran with PTSD recovering in the Amazon jungle. To indicate this, Pecknold and his co-writer Tim Bernardes have added Latin American touches such as maracas in the fade-in and a marimba break after the first verse. But Pecknold writes melodies with the same sturdy pentatonicism as he used on that first album. Superimposed on these—and only occasionally audible amid the reverb—the traditional instruments sound like textural flourishes rather than important musical statements. He steers dangerously close to the weak generalisations of corporate ‘world music’, which transplants cultural signatures onto the familiar template of western pop, to evoke exoticism without challenging the listener.

But it’s not Kung-Fu Fighting. Pecknold has a gift for word painting even when the words in question are uninspiring, drawing out the syllable of ‘time’ as if trying to artificially extend his own, having been ‘given evidence that it might end’. A friend of mine once lamented the ‘predictable nonsense bridge’ of a Fleet Foxes song, but here all those ‘oohs’ provide a harmonic counterweight to an unadventurous verse, landing after deep undulations on a major seventh that rings with fond melancholy. Fleet Foxes maintain complexity even through the murky production and thematic sterility of their latest single.

“AnaViotti_FLEET FOXES-16by Side Stage Collective is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.