Album: Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)

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The Independent Culture

Robin Pecknold became so difficult to be around during the making of Helplessness Blues, he now admits, that his girlfriend Olivia left him. Then, when she heard how beautiful the end results were, she came back.

It's easy to see how the Fleet Foxes leader must have become a little monomaniacal during the creation of the Seattle folkies' second album. It took two attempts and the sheer attention to detail is dizzying.

Like their self-titled debut, there are still unmistakable echoes of CSN&Y and Simon and Garfunkel, although the stated influences this time out are Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and Roy Harper's Stormcock.

Helpnessness Blues is, like its predecessor, archaic and pastoral to the last. When Pecknold sings "I heard you on the radio", it's a jolt to realise he inhabits the modern world at all. From the opener on, this is an often-bleak listen lyrically. But with songs such as the six-minute "The Plains/Bitter Dancer", it's an overwhelmingly gorgeous experience.