Review: Fleet Foxes Up Their Prog Game on Epic 'Crack-Up'

Out take on the latest from the coffee-shop heroes, returning from a six-year hiatus

Fleet Foxes return after six years with 'Crack-Up.' Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Let's just say Fleet Foxes are emphasizing the "Y" in CSNY. The folk-rock band's long-awaited latest sort of feels like Neil Young's Buffalo Springfield collage-dream opus "Broken Arrow" if it lasted a whole album. Their sound is still rooted in the lush, beardly harmonies and sky-bound strumming that made their first two LPs coffee-shop staples. But they've upped their prog ambitions – tracks wash together, song titles abound with opaque punctuation, and the sweeping melodies often wander into moody places, away from the safety of the campfire.

The seven-minute opener "I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar," begins with frontman Robin Pecknold's forlorn murmuring, then bursts into a dissonant acoustic charge before riding eagles-wings orchestration toward more-reassuring loveliness. "Third of May/Ōdaigahara" suggests the soft rock of Seals and Crofts or America as avant-garde psychedelia. These shape-shifting arrangements can be dazzling, a balance of pastorale beauty and studio whimsy, tradition and trippiness. Often, Pecknold's lyrics reveal a divided mind to match the music's fragmented flow: "I can tell you've cracked like a china plate," he sings on the darkly spacious, densely orchestrated title track, a vision of things falling apart rendered as grand as an Aaron Copland fanfare.