“Third Of May/Odaigahara,” a carefully constructed nine-minute genre-blending single, is Fleet Foxes’ first song in six years. The song shifts between lush up-tempo waves of harmonies and slow introspective moments, changing direction as quickly as the song opens. The song’s dual title is justified by these changes, which embody a certain confliction within the song’s lyrics.
“Aren’t we made to be crowded together,” sings lead man Robin Pecknold, “like leaves?”. The comparison of a crowd of people to leaves, fallen or otherwise, gives context to the song’s unconventional structure — one that suggests a broader philosophy, signified by a messy convoluted chaos that can also be quite beautiful.
The forthcoming album, “Crack-Up,” gets its name from an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay. The essay focuses on Firtzgerald’s unhappiness despite achieving massive literary success, and on his subsequent mid-life mental break-down. The image of one writhing in psychic pain, brass ring in hand, challenges the way we structure our lives and quantify happiness. This is the sentiment Fleet Foxes are addressing with “Third Of May/Odaigahara”.
Pecknold explained that the song comes out of his relationship with his friend/band mate Skylar Skjelset. “Even if some time apart was necessary and progressive for both of us as individuals,” Pecknold explains, “I missed our connection, especially the one we had when we were teenagers, and the lyrics for the song grew out of that feeling.” This explains some of the song’s slow meditative refrains as introspective moments questioning the absence of that connection. That meaningful connection also builds off the allusion in the album’s title. It suggests these types of relationships are worth holding on to, however fleeting, and that perhaps these feelings/relationships are an appropriate response to Fitzgerald’s “crack-up,” and the absurdities there-in.
The music of the song kicks in simultaneously with Pecknold’s blissful burst, “Light ended the night, but the song remained.” Pecknold told fans “Crack-Up” would take off from where their previous album “Helplessness Blues” ended. And if you listen to its final track – “Grown Ocean” – it sounds as if you could simply tack “Third Of May/Odaigahara” to its end.
“Grown Ocean” is a beautiful track that cascades with spangled harmonies and quells into a quiet introspective with the same switch-flipping quality as their new single. However, despite this connection, as well as the band’s traditional folk/a cappella roots, “Third Of May/Odaigahara” has the feel of something unequivocally new.
Fleet Foxes second single from “Crack-Up” is “Fool’s Errand.” An interpretive dance video created by Sean Pecknold and Adi Goodrich accompanies the song. “Fool’s Errand” is pristine pop, but doesn’t sacrifice anything in terms of ingenuity.
The arrangement is more robust than a typical Fleet Foxes tune. The band’s harmonized vocals are on full display. As the song swells into its chorus you have to listen intently to discern the voices of Skjelset, Wargo, and Wescott converging upon Pecknold’s.
“Crack-Up” is due out June 16th.