Track Reviews — 2/3/11

‘Helplessness Blues’
Fleet Foxes
Sub Pop

Seattle’s Starbucks-folk collective Fleet Foxes will return this May with their highly anticipated second effort Helplessness Blues. Until then, the album’s first single and title track provide enough plucking guitar, soaring melodies and wispy, Garfunkel-style vocals to satiate our thirst for those bucolic, hippie-bred simpler times.

“Helplessness Blues” packs an impressive cinematic narrative into five minutes. Frontman Robin Pecknold begins with a chorus-backed overture about youth and proving oneself, then picks up steam, erupting in an acoustic-driven chorus that chugs past lyrical images of waiting tables and working in orchards. Pecknold wields this aesthetic with emotive sincerity, following the musings of a twentysomething who feels helpless in a world of dizzying choices and consequences.

Clearly, Fleet Foxes plan to remain faithful to their breezy sta- ple sound. The single’s combination of stripped-down production and pleasant lyrical introspection provide hope for a solid return.

—Neelaab Nasraty

‘Words I Never Said’
Lupe Fiasco
Atlantic

Lupe Fiasco is angry at the world, and he’s not shy about it. “Words I Never Said” is five minutes of pure fury — an avalanche of lyrical broadsides aimed at everything from the bumbling media to shitty schools to Obama himself. After Skylar Grey opens the track with a hauntingly beautiful verse sung over echoing keystrokes, Lupe immediately retorts, spitting such gems as, “I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit/ just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets.”

Lupe’s venom spares no one and builds off a steady, pulsating beat that works with the chilling chorus to create a sense of doom. It’s a virtuoso performance, more wrathful than past hits like “Superstar” or “Day Dreaming,” but just as packed with effortless wordplay and slick rhymes.

—Imran Manji

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