Robin Pecknold and Fleet Foxes recently dropped an unexpected record, Shore, and it is a return to the beautiful harmonies and transcendent musical landscapes we have become accustomed to. Wall of sound harmonies with indie folk musicality are throwbacks to earlier records such as 2008’s self – titled Fleet Foxes. However, Jara marks a change to this formula and shows how the band has evolved its sound without losing the beautiful folk DNA that set Fleet Foxes above other folk bands.
First of all, Pecknold has modern classical artist Meara O’Reilly, who uses her voice as a classical instrument in arrangements reminiscent of Phillip Glass, provide the introduction to the track and perform in the background. This gives the track a fresh and interesting backbone, which the more folky notes can attach themselves to. Moreover, the guitars and percussion have more warmth and are further up front in the mix compared to earlier releases. All of these factors work together to create a musically complex track that still proudly wears its folky heart on its sleeve. I think the addition of Meara O”Reilly is a stroke of genius and gives the track a modern edge and a wall of sound vibe when everything is clicking on all cylinders.
Fleet Foxes have always been known for beautiful and fragile harmonies with Pecknold’s smooth vocal driving everything forward. Jara is no exception and you are swept away in this river of harmony that ebbs and flows throughout the track. You are at Pecknold’s mercy as his vocal acts as the Pied Piper leading you through the track. The track itself explores death, God, time and connection, which are all familiar themes for the band. Even though Pecknold has explored these themes in previous records, see Crack – Up, he is 34 now and looking at things from a new perspective. He sings about how death can be unjust and cruel, “And you sang for the lost and gone who were young, and deserving more.” However, one can still make an impact in someone’s life that has meaning and importance, “Though we’re only alive a short while / So many beneath my feet / All weather, you walk with me.” It is this conflict between cruelty and connection that lies at the heart of Jara.
Pecknold and Fleet Foxes have always combined beautiful wall of sound harmonies with tragic subjects such as death and sorrow. Even though these harmonies and subjects have remained, it is exciting to see the band’s sound continue to evolve in fresh ways. Pecknold took some time off from Fleet Foxes in 2013 in order to get some distance from music and experience life. He returned to the band with new perspectives on life and music, which have re-energised the band. Much like life, Fleet Foxes’ track Jara is a document of beauty and suffering.
Listen to Jara