Delicate yet steadfast opener “Wading in Waist-High Water”, featuring the vocals of Uwade Akhere, establishes a welcome sense of embrace which characterises the entire album, distinguishing itself from previous work— such as Helplessness Blues and Crack-Up. The result, after almost two years of writing which commenced during their tour of the aforementioned work, is a 15 song strong landscape that is aglow with heavenly harmonies, almost paean in their quality.
Particularly evident on “Sunblind”, the track is an ode to artists including Richard Swift, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake and David Berman; the chorus paying explicit reference to Silver Jews’ American Water (1998). In a press release, Pecknold vows the album to living “fully and vibrantly in a way [those artists] no longer can, in a way they maybe couldn’t even when they were with us”, a promise which is fulfilled with tracks such as “A Long Way Past The Past” and “Featherweight”. The latter with its rippling piano paired with the ebb and flow of “love and hate in the balance” offers a subdued yet epiphanic embrace of the necessary binaries of life. Where there is dark, there must also be light.
The simple delicacy of “I’m Not My Season” too plays to the dependability of nature, acknowledging that the winters of ones life are just that: temporal, and impermanent. This simplicity complements tracks such as psychedelia infused “Jara” and “Quiet Air / Gioia” which exhibit more texturally experimental moments from the band. The percussion of steel drums and shakers mimic falling raining, with the drums driving the melody underneath with urgency, as though running through long grass as the album drives close and closer to the “Shore”.
“Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman” includes a poignant sample of dialogue from Brian Wilson laying vocals for “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)”, a track which features on the Beach Boys’ 1966 Pet Sounds, and to which Pecknold’s latest album could be an entire ode in itself.
The yearning prayer of “Can I Believe You” which carries an almost anthemic quality. This was achieved in part from the collective voice of around 400 - 500 people from Instagram who sang along to the track, demonstrating just one way in which the album defied limitations to the recording process imposed by a global pandemic. The result is a joyous congregation, synonymous with Fleet Foxes etherial strand of folk rock making it just one of the album’s highlight’s, and one which will undoubtedly set the room alight when it eventually makes its live debut.