Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #1: "Helplessness Blues" -- Fleet Foxes

The best song of 2011 came to us relatively early in the year, when 2010 was still fresh in our minds. There was still quite a bit of music to be released, including the album on which it was released. Hell, many of us even had the silly notion that despite the fact that the year as a whole had been a bit of a letdown, we might still pull through. Score one for optimism, right? Haha, yeah. About that.

But Robin Pecknold has a strange way of keeping one hopeful, despite what has occurred and what is yet to happen. How this occurs is anyone's guess, be it the good vibes his band emits or the generally upbeat music they create. But somehow, no matter how bad it got in 2011, we always had Fleet Foxes.

"Helplessness Blues," from the album of the same name, begins with the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar. Pecknold, his voice by now unmistakable after the runaway success of his band's debut record, sings of the uniqueness he was told he possessed as a youngster, before releasing that perhaps it is best to become a part of "some great machinery, serving something beyond me."

Fleet Foxes set the bar high for their second record, and "Helplessness Blues" far surpasses it. The song soon balloons into a more plugged-in affair, with drums and electric guitar complementing the sudden slash in tempo.

"What good is it to sing helplessness blues?" Pecknold asks, holding up the inherent optimism of the song. In an age where no one really knows where we're heading, Pecknold remains hopeful, and knows that doing otherwise will bring no good tidings. It's a lesson from which we can learn -- instead of pessimism reigning in our lives, why not have a healthier outlook on life? What good is it to live otherwise?

With beautiful harmonizing and instrumentation, Fleet Foxes created a song that may just define the decade with its message. It's tough to say where we're going, but perhaps if all of us had an orchard or two in our lives, we'd be a little happier.

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