The Most Hopeful Album of 2020 – A Review of Fleet Foxes’ Shore

Shore, the fourth studio-album by Fleet Foxes, is about coming back to land after being chin-deep in heavy water. The first gentle guitar strums that you hear when you press play is the relief in being able to see solid ground and breathe again. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that. And the first thing you hear when listening to this album is really what I think this whole album is about.

To Robin Pecknold, singer-songwriter and frontman of the band, Shore is meant to be a life-preserver in this ocean of bad news. In a year beyond description, Fleet Foxes intends to give a good and hopeful answer, even when things suck and it feels like shouting into the void. Now two months out from its release, it has been exactly that for myself and many others in the chaos of this year. 

On this album, Robin speaks more directly and candidly than he ever has. In songs like the bright and explosive “Can I Believe You,” he wrestles with the part of himself that he feels doesn’t live up to what he wants to be. In the more subdued and crescendoing “A Long Way Past the Past,” Robin struggles with the pain of the past, the anxiety of the present, and the uncertain path to healing in the future. With these songs, Shore is able to embody so many of the emotions this year has brought out, and it does it with delicacy and grace.

Though Shore tackles these emotions, it also feels aggressively optimistic about life and living it. Maybe it is strange and a little forceful because of this year’s difficulties, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less of a message we need to hear. Typically a project that leans heavily into the flair of rustic folk and experimentation, Fleet Foxes now finds itself playing a more straightforward, 70s inspired baroque rock. There are no extra bells or tassels; this time, Fleet Foxes wants to be more honest. And I think we needed that.

Ultimately, Shore is meant to be about honouring and celebrating the beauty of life in the places they may be found. In the soaring track “Sunblind”, Robin sings a tribute to his musical inspirations who have passed and have helped him in his own difficulties: “I’m looking up at you there high in my mind/ Only way that I made it for a long time / But I’m loud and alive, singing you all night”.

And finally, in what I think is the soul of this album, and a track I’ve been playing on repeat is “I’m Not My Season”. Here, Robin sings only with a guitar, quietly uplifting its listener. It’s a comforting, gentle anthem and reminder that everyone needs to hear:

“Well, time’s not what I belong to / And you’re not the season you’re in”

Shore is the perfect album for this specific time and place because it chooses to be optimistic in a time of unrelenting adversity. It’s a record that you end up singing to yourself because you want to believe it, and that’s where it’s most powerful. Full of lush, soaring songs and equally gentle, comforting melodies, it’s music that encourages healing and demands you to look around and find hope in beautiful things.

Favourite Tracks: Wading In Waist-High Water, Sunblind, Can I Believe You, Maestranza, I’m Not My Season, Going-to-the-Sun Road

Listen to and watch the album/cinematic film stream:

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