‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.’ The quote is taken from The Crack-Up, a collection of essays written by F. Scott Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby fame and is obviously a source of inspiration for Fleet Foxes on their latest album Crack-Up. Fitzgerald talks of dilemma, of seeing both sides of an argument even when you might strongly side with one. For Fleet Foxes that conundrum sets its left foot in reality and the synonymous tumult of modern times and its right in the otherworldly beauty of Robin Pecknold’s ruminative harmonies and indirectly gorgeous artistry.
Even during the more rousing, sunlit moments on ‘Third of May/Ōdaigahara’ and ‘Fool’s Errand’ there’s still a coldness that pervades. These eleven tracks absorb for reasons beyond their intricate instrumentation. The title of song ‘Cassius’ refers both to the mutinous Roman senator and the recently-passed boxer Muhammad Ali as well as referencing the murders of two American black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, which led to a number of protests and worsened racial tensions. Title track ‘Crack-Up’ takes Fitzgerald’s quote and applies it to the schisms and anxiety over the current geopolitical landscape and ‘I Should See Memphis’ too tries to understand the world post-election. Notions of duality throughout hint at ruptures beneath Pecknold’s surface as he tries to decipher modern time like everyone else. But even as the fabric frays, Fleet Foxes manage to retain the dreamy sense of the rolling pastoral and the morph of their avant-garde folk on Crack-Up. It’s a gorgeous dense expansion, and rather wonderfully and aptly, in a way we didn’t expect.