First off, I don’t care about the fact that it has taken Fleet Foxes six years to release their third studio album, Crack-Up. Sometimes all it takes is some time off in order to create something magical. Lead singer Robin Pecknold definitely had quite a bit to speak on based off of his experiences from studying at Columbia University in New York; and he did so with few lyrics and beautiful wintry production.
The phenomenal part about Fleet Foxes has to be their continuing experimentation even with their third project. While their debut album Fleet Foxes, and second record Helplessness Blues were both critically acclaimed collections, Crack-Up is by far their most abstract and complex as far as songwriting goes. Pecknold doesn’t find the need to spell certain themes out for listeners which I greatly appreciate, and he definitely leaves most of the topics discussed open for people’s interpretation.
With eleven songs and a running time of 55 minutes, this album is a dense experience and as a result, listeners may need to give this multiple chances to develop their own perception of what the project is trying to say.
The fact that Pecknold and co. were able to create this Greek mythological premise surrounding modern day topics that are relevant to our world today, is both imaginative and artistic in its own right. Pecknold goes as far as to create song titles that are so hard to understand and pronounce, that you may have to look up what each Greek title represents (although that would take the fun out of developing your own judgement of the track itself).
From the emotional roller coaster ride of “I Am All that I Need/ Arroyo Socco/ Thumbprint Scar,” to the effect that time has on people with the track, “Third of May/ Odaigahara,” this project tackles so much, but in a very cohesive and tenacious way.
Pecknold finds the perfect balance of being self-conscious and socially aware. The song “Cassius” describes the idea of power in a very interesting way. Cassius is the Roman Senator who overthrew Julius Caesar for the title of king, and Pecknold seems to be using that reference to portray the corruption that’s in our society today. Pecknold begs the question “who will lead us, and who remains to die/ by a thread, drop my head to cry.” I love how water samples are used throughout the record too, because it gives the production a very authentic feeling.
On “-Naiads Cassadies,” Pecknold dives into the complexities of a relationship between a man and a woman. He uses Naiads which are female water nymphs in Greek mythology to describe women, and Cassidies which is a name to portray a male. With little words, Pecknold still provides a powerful understanding of what love can mean.
The wintry production on “Kept Women” is bone-chilling, and the lyrics are just as icy. This track is definitely one of the more abstract experiences, and you really wonder whether this story is being told from a third person perspective, or is this a personal story. The imagery for sure illustrates two people with sexual tension (it is important to note that a kept woman is someone who exchanges food and water for sex). This is probably my personal favorite.
Pecknold really digs deep lyrically to tell his story of why he took a six year break on the songs “Third of May,” and “If You Need To, Keep Time on Me.” Unlike a lot of musical groups, Pecknold actually dedicates these tracks to talk about how much his long-time producer Skyler Skjelset has meant to him. Even though he needed time off for himself, the idea of not making music with Skyler really brought some depression for awhile. The passion for music really radiates off of each of the aforementioned singles.
Pecknold really wears his personal influences on his sleeve on “Mearcstapa.” On here, the water sample is used tremendously to represent a sailor that he was influenced by from 1968, and the sound of a boat sailing on the ocean represents the private escape from the world around him. One would assume that the escape described here is the six years he took off from music. Either way, the sound stays consistent with the rest of the album, and Pecknold only needs two verses to illustrate his state of mind. The same type of theme is tackled on “On Another Ocean” as well.
The project closes out in the most abstract and philosophical way possible, and I love it. Tracks like “I Should See Memphis,” and “Crack-Up” question relationships in general, and how one may need someone in their life for balance. The title track especially comes off as a grand finale to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I wouldn’t have cared if this album took twenty years to make. Pecknold and the Fleet Foxes made sure that a project like this was done to perfection. Quietly, they are still innovating. Everything about this record is dense and debatable. No interpretation is wrong. Yes, there may be some personal anecdotes here, but even those are portrayed in a very obtuse manner. In the end, Crack-Up was very much a modern day Greek mythological play, and it’s one I wish I could experience again and again and again.