Music/CD Review: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Sub-Pop Records)

I spent a beautiful late spring morning walking around Philadelphia listening to the new Fleet Foxes album, Helplessness Blues, on my iPod. At its conclusion I decided that it was a really terrific record filled with beautiful singing and compelling melodies. Robin Pecknold’s voice is as pretty as Graham Nash’s and his lyrics are…well, they’re no dopier than Nash’s and that has to count for something. Arrangements are clever without calling untoward attention to their cleverness. A simple, supremely pleasant listen.

So I started to think about my prior response to these guys which was filled with such righteous anger you’d think they were the Embodiment of Everything Wrong With Rock Music Today. Why did I hate them so much when, in fact, this was the first time I had every spent more than a cursory minute or two listening to their music? I’ve come to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with their music and everything to do with other people’s responses to said music. I find nothing inherently awful about folk music as a concept or in practice. Some of my favorite artists are deeply indebted to folk traditions and others are just as strongly influenced by folk-based ideas. But I took the hosannas directed towards Fleet Foxes as an affront to everything I loved about rock’n’roll.

But in reality it is not everything I love about rock’n’roll. Further, it has precious little to do with rock’n’roll period and I am fine with that. It was as if I saw every Fleet Foxes album purchased as one less Figgs album going out the door, or Matthew Sweet or Ted Leo or Superchunk or…you get the picture. And that’s silly. It’s like being mad at a banana for not being an orange because while you like bananas a lot, you like oranges even more. And how dare people prefer bananas to oranges? Can’t they see that no matter how good bananas are, oranges are even better (if I may be allowed to carry this tortured analogy to it’s final resting place)?!

So enjoy your bananas. This is a particularly good one.

Fleet Foxes are available at Amazon, get their music here!


Sal Cannestra is a New York City native who relocated to Philadelphia in 2006.  He has been writing about rock’n’roll music since 1984 for various publications.  He also plays in the bands The Gerunds ( and The Thirteen (

Check out Sal’s blog here:

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