Fleet Foxes – “Shore” Review

Story posted September 28, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by Paul Martin.

“I’ve been solving for the meaning of life,” belts Fleet Foxes lead man Robin Pecknold on “Young Man’s Game,” a song off the Seattle folk outfit’s latest album “Shore.”

Just like the rest of the country, it’s clear this year hasn’t been an easy one for Pecknold. Since the Fleet Foxes’ last record, 2017’s bold yet inviting “Crack-Up,” he has lost heroes, influences and friends.

“I wanted the album to be for these people,” Pecknold told Apple Music. “I’m trying to celebrate life in a time of death.”

“Shore” is a fantastic new member to the Fleet Foxes discography, and it does just what it intends to, honoring the heroes and influences who made Pecknold what he is today while also celebrating the joys, wonders and frustrations that come with living the human experience.

Fans of Fleet Foxes’ previous work will find this as a welcome addition to the bands catalog. While Pecknold retained the sound that made Fleet Foxes a very well-known band amongst the indie community, he found himself in a funk of writer's block while trying to find the lyrics to the mostly upbeat music.

“I had this optimistic music, but I’d been writing these kind of downer lyrics, and it just wasn’t jelling,” he stated to Apple Music.

It wasn’t until he started endlessly driving around the Catskills mountain range in his Toyota 4Runner that the lyrics started coming to him. He started driving day and night for three weeks, and when lyrics came to mind, he would pull over and jot them down. The result is the most honest and open lyrics Pecknold has written to date.

Throughout the album, the lyrics allude to living life even in the face of agony and uncertainty. This is most apparent on the highlight track of the album, “Sunblind.” Throughout the song, Pecknold honors his deceased friends and influences and name checks several albums important to him, including Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or” and David Berman’s “American Water.”

“That chorus is saying ‘I’m going to live as best I can, in thanks to these people,’” Pecknold told Rolling Stone. “Because they can’t, or [because] they couldn’t.”

The song, a lively and uplifting tribute to his influences, could very well find itself on critics’ year-end lists for song of the year.

Other album highlights include the stellar opener “Wading in Waist-High Water,” which naturally gets sonically bigger as the song progresses, and features the vocals of English singer Uwade Akhere.

“Young Man’s Game” dashes through at a fast tempo, offering a glimpse of feeling like you’ve run out of new things to say as you get older.

“I’m Not My Season” is a song ripe with symbolism and one of Fleet Foxes’ most personal songs. The allusions of water to depression really convey the sense of being lost at times. Additionally, the song alludes to the idea that while sometimes the sky may be clear and the weather perfect, people can feel as though they’re stuck in winter, where the harsh conditions of the outdoors make us burrow inside.

The album is not without its faults, however. After the initial stellar opening songs, the album slogs a little in the middle, starting with the well-intentioned but dreary “Featherweight” and ending with the brief, unmemorable “For a Week or Two,” which drones on and makes the two-minute song feel like five.

“Maestranza” does a great job of picking the mood back up with its sweeping guitar and a sound that Pecknold admitted as trying to be “Bill Withers-y.”

As with previous Fleet Foxes releases, the instrumentation remains beautiful. The layering of horns and piano contribute to a sonic sound that fills out marvelously and offers the feel of a road trip, much like the long car trips that were instrumental in the development of this album.

The lush acoustic guitar offers beautiful arrangements that add to the feel of the folk sound that Fleet Foxes have seemed to master to a tee.

On the album’s closing/title track “Shore,” Pecknold wraps up the album very nicely. “Afraid of the empty, but too safe on the shore” he sings, alluding to the safety the shore provides from the uncertainty of the water. Pecknold acknowledges the thought of going too deep in the water to the point where you can’t be saved yet understands that life is meant to be lived.

Pecknold mentions Smith and Berman, two great songwriters who ultimately took their own lives, again in the song’s closing refrain.

“Lyrically, it’s tying up some loose ends, talking to...your family or your heroes, and thanking them,” Pecknold told Apple Music.

While at times life may seem chaotic like the crushing waves of the ocean, you can always count on the safety and comfort of the shore when the water gets too high.

Rating: 8/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Sunblind” and “Young Man’s Game”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “For a Week or Two”


Paul Martin is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email phm5095@psu.edu.

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