Artist: Fleet Foxes Album: Crack-Up Year: 2017 Grade: B
In Brief: A strangely fractured, and yet strangely beautiful, third album from a band that was clearly restless to expand upon their old sound without completely abandoning it. My opinion of it seems to change with every listen, but it’s slowly inching in a more positive direction. I think this band is challenging its fanbase in mostly good ways.
Artist: Foo Fighters Album: Sonic Highways Year: 2014 Grade: B+
In Brief: With this aural tribute to eight of our country’s great cities, featuring artists as diverse as Ben Gibbard, Joe Walsh, and Zac Brown (and that’s just on my three favorite tracks), Foo Fighters have finally gotten me hooked after nearly two decades of me thinking they weren’t my style. Not every experiment works, but the band is wise to let the various genre influences from each city be a flavor rather than the entire dish, which makes the record overall more cohesive and engaging than the sum of its parts.
Artist: Pearl Jam Album: Lightning Bolt Year: 2013 Grade: B+
In Brief: A triumphant “return to form” that manages to not be a rehash of Ten or of their previous “return to form” on the self-titled album. Despite a few slow spots, Lightning Bolt has a surprising amount of instant likeability that doesn’t diminish as you get deeper into the album.
Fleet Foxes put on a solid show at the Greek Theater tonight. It was my first time seeing them live, and an outdoor venue was the perfect place for it – moon shining overhead, crickets chirping in the background, those pristine vocal harmonies echoing off into the clear night. Full setlist is in my main concert journal entry. I could go into a lot of detail, but just to summarize, I’ll say that FF is capable of a wall of sound that packs a real punch, so it’s not always the chill “acoustic sensitive” experience you’d expect, even though the live arrangements are mostly faithful to the album versions (with some variance in tempo for dramatic effects, usually during the harmony-heavy vocal breaks). The only thing I’d knock off points for – and only meager points at that – would be their awkward stage presence – little bits of funny between-song banter here and there, but it’s a bit disruptive to the mood of their songs and you can tell they’re trying to fill time while retuning (which they have to do a lot – they even opened with awkward silence and stage banter before getting tuned right for their first song). No biggie. When they’re playing, they’re awesome, and they hit pretty much every highlight from their past and present records that I could think of, with maybe “Drops in the River” being the one exception I would have liked to hear but didn’t.