The long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s Helplessness Blues, the chamber folk album that cemented Fleet Foxes as music pioneers, has finally been announced. “Crack-Up,” will be released on 16 June, 2017, via Nonesuch Records with songs written entirely by Robin Pecknold, the band’s main vocalist and leader.
To supplement the announcement, the band has released the track “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” which will be featured on the album. Check out the song in the lyric video below, or via instant download with a preorder of the album, which includes limited-edition artwork by Hiroshi Hamaya.
Fleet Foxes fans have waited six long years for new music, and should be elated by the new video and the album’s cover art. The artwork for “Crack-Up,” depicts a rocky ocean shore, hazy and opaque in its color scheme, with the ocean stretching out into the distance. Off of the greenish ocean water rises swaths of mist, which seem to coalesce into the distant horizon. The rocky outcrops of the shore are indistinct and mostly dark in the foreground, contrasting with the fiery field of light that glows in the top right corner of the scene, like the breaking of the sun on a stormy day.
Pecknold, while talking about the album with Pitchfork, relates that ethereal cloud to the journey of the record: “I feel like Crack-Up begins in pure conflicted solitude and ends in a bright clearing, one of closeness, like the top right hand corner of the photograph on the album. I’d like the next band album to be a celebration of or elaboration on how “Crack-Up” ends.”
In the time between “Helplessness Blues” and now, Pecknold and the band seem to have come full circle. Having attended Columbia University and questioned the nature of meaning in making music, the band’s leader has come to terms with the “helplessness” of existential crisis and returned to what he loves.
“Third of May / Ōdaigahara” documents his quest for purpose, lamenting solitude and an inability to be present: “Aren’t we made to be crowded together, like leaves?” Pecknold sings, later comparing the chance events that brought the band together to a sand painting to be washed away. Through this, he celebrates the beauty of human connection that inevitably will be lost, and tries to find peace with that simple fact.
Based on this nearly nine-minute epic, the album seems intent on working through the solitude and despair of the human condition, questioning what is the purpose of one man’s life. “I am only owed this shape if I make a line to hold,” Pecknold howls, crafting his own purpose as making a “line” through life, which could be interpreted as staying true to what he loves and fighting for that purpose to be true in a world drained of inherent meaning. Yet it still remains to be seen what story will be revealed on the rest of the album, as we move toward the otherworldly light floating out there on the horizon.
For now, that light calls out to all of us, and it’s up to each individual to discover how to get there without losing faith along the way: “As if in the sight of sea, you’re suddenly free, but it’s all the same.”