“This feels like [2017’s] Crack-Up’s friendly brother,” Robin Pecknold tells Apple Music of his fourth LP under the Fleet Foxes name. Written and recorded alongside producer-engineer Beatriz Artola (Adele, J Cole, The Kills) throughout much of 2019 and 2020, Shore is an album of gratitude—one that found its lyrical focus in quarantine, as Pecknold began taking day-long drives from his New York apartment up to Lake Minnewaska and into the Catskills and back, stopping only to get gas or jot down ideas as they came to him. “It was like the car was the safest place to be,” he says. “I had this optimistic music but I’d been writing these kind of downer lyrics and it just wasn't gelling. It was realizing that in the grand scheme of things, this music is pretty unimportant compared to what's going on.” At the album's heart is “Sunblind,” an opening statement that pays glimmering tribute to some of Pecknold’s late musical heroes—from Richard Swift to Elliott Smith to David Berman, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Judee Sill, and more. “I wanted the album to be for these people,” Pecknold says. “I’m trying to celebrate life in a time of death, trying to find something to hold on to that exists outside of time, something that feels solid or stable.” Here, Pecknold walks us through every song on the album. Wading in Waist-High Water “I would have a piece of music and then I would try and sing it, but I would always try and pitch my voice up an octave or manipulate my voice to make it match the calming, mourning tone of the music a little more. And then a friend of mine sent me a clip of Uwade Akhere covering [2008’s] ‘Mykonos’ on Instagram, and I was just in love with the texture of her voice and just how easy it was. That was a signal that this was going to be a different kind of album in some ways. It was like I finally found a song where I was like, ‘You know what? This is just going to be more of what I want it to be if someone else sings it.’ And that's been an awesome mindset to be in lately, just thinking more about writing for other voices and what other voices can naturally evoke without just trying to make my voice do a ton of different things to get to an emotional resonance.” Sunblind “I knew I wanted it to be kind of a mission statement for the record—kind of cite-your-sources energy a little bit. And then find a way to get from this list of names of dead musicians that I'm inspired by—whose music has really helped me in my life—to somewhere that felt like you were taking the wheel and doing something with that feeling. Or trying to live in honor of that, at least in a way that they're no longer able to, or in a way that carries their point of view forward into the future. ‘Sunblind’ is like giving the record permission to go all these places or something. Once it felt like it was doing that, then the whole record kind of made more sense to me, or felt like it all tied into each other in a way that it hadn't when that song wasn't done.” Can I Believe You “That riff is the oldest thing on the album, because I wrote that in the middle of the Crack-Up tour and tried working on it then but never got anywhere with it really. Once I was thinking less about some second party that's untrustworthy and more just one person's own hang-ups with letting people in—like my own hang-ups with that—then the lyrics flowed a little better. Those choral voices are actually 400 or 500 people from Instagram that sent clips of them singing that line to me. And then we spent days editing them together and cleaning them up. There's this big hug of vocals around the lead vocal that’s talking about trust or believability.” Jara “I wanted ‘Can I Believe You’ to be kind of a higher-energy headbanger-type song, and then after that, have a more steady groove—a loop-based, almost builder-type song. That's the single-friend kind of placement on the record. Jara is a reference to Victor Jara, the Chilean folk singer. A national hero there who was killed by Pinochet’s army. But it's not about Victor Jara— it's more like with ‘Sunblind,’ where you're trying to eulogize someone, to honor someone or place them in some kind of canon.” Featherweight “It's the first minor-key song, but it's also the first one that's without a super prominent drumbeat. It’s lighter on its feet. I thought it was following a train of thought—where with ‘Jara’ there is a bit of envy of a political engagement, in ‘Featherweight,’ I feel like it's kind of examining privilege a little bit more. This period of time accommodated that in a very real way for me, just making my problems seem smaller. Acknowledging that I've made problems for myself sometimes in my life when there weren't really any.” A Long Way Past the Past “Everything I tried was either too Michael McDonald or too Sly Stone or too Stevie Wonder. At that tempo it was just hard to find the instrumentation that didn't feel too pastiche or something. While I was writing the lyrics to it, I was thinking, ‘How much am I living in the past? How much can I leave that behind? How much of my identity is wrapped up in memories?’ And asking for help from a friend to maybe fend through that or come on the other side of that. So I thought it was funny to have that be the lyric on the most maybe nostalgic piece of music on the record in terms of what it's referencing.” For a Week or Two “The first couple Fleet Foxes records, it was a rural vibe as opposed to an urban vibe. I think on the first album, that was just the music I liked, but it wasn't like the lyrics were talking about a bunch of personal experiences I had in nature, because I was just 20 years old making that album and I didn't have a lot to draw from. ‘For a Week or Two,’ that's really about a bunch of long backpacking trips that I was taking for a while. And just the feeling that you have when you're doing that, of not being anyone and just being this body in space and never catching your reflection in anything. Carrying very little, and finding some peace in that.” Maestranza “Musically, I think for a while it had something in it that had a disco or roller-skating kind of energy that I was trying to find a way out of, and then we found this other palette of instruments that felt less that way. I was trying to go for a Bill Withers-y thing. I feel like a lot of the people that get mentioned in ‘Sunblind,’ their resonance is there, influencing throughout the record. In the third verse, it’s about missing your friends, missing your people, but knowing that since we're all going through the same thing that we're kind of connected through that in a way that's really special and kind of unique to this period. I feel more distant from people but also closer in terms of my actual daily experience.” Young Man’s Game “I thought it would be funny if Hamilton [Leithauser]’s kids were on it. My original idea was to have it sung by a 10-year-old boy, and then that was just too gimmicky or something. But I wanted there to be kids on it because it's referencing immaturity or naivete—things about being young. Because people say ’a young man’s game’ in kind of a positive way. Sometimes they're sad they aged out or something. But in this song I use it more in the negative sense of ‘glad you've moved on from some of these immature delusions’ or something. When I was younger I would be much too insecure to make a goofy song, needing everything to be perfect or dramatic or whatever mindset I was in.” I’m Not My Season “A friend of mine had been telling me about her experience helping a family member with addiction. As she was describing that, I was imagining this sailing lesson I had taken where we were learning how to rescue someone who had fallen overboard and you have to circle the boat around the right way and throw the ropes from the right place. Time is just something that's happening around us, but there's some kind of core idea that you're not what's happening to you. Like wind on a flag.” Quiet Air / Gioia “The chords had this kind of expectant feel or something, like an ominous quality, that's never really resolving. And I think that kind of led me to want to write about imagining someone, speaking to somebody who is courting danger. Some of the lyrics in the song come from talking to a friend of mine who is a climate scientist, and just her perspective on how screwed we are or aren’t. Just thinking about that whole issue hinges on particulate matter in air that is invisible. You can just be looking at the sky and looking at what will eventually turn into an enormous calamity, and it's quietly occurring, quietly accruing. It's happening on a time scale that we're not prepared to accept or deal with. The ending is this more ecstatic thing. Just imagining some weird pagan dance, like rite of spring or something, where it just kind of builds into this weird kind of joy. Like dancing while the world burns.” Going-to-the-Sun Road “The Sun Road is a place in Montana, a 60-mile stretch of road that’s only open for a couple months every year. It’s where they filmed the intro to The Shining, where they're driving to the lodge and it’s just very scenic. I grew up fairly close to there. A lot of the studios that I worked at on this record were places that I had always wanted to go and work, places where I’ve been like, ‘Oh, one day I'll make a record there.’ That song is about being tired of traveling, wanting to slow down a bit and wanting to not fight so hard personally against yourself. Or trying to have as many adventures as possible, but then having this one place—almost like a Rosebud kind of thing—where it's like going to the Sun Road is the last big adventure. The one that's always on the horizon that you have to look forward to that keeps you going.” Thymia “Getting back to work on the record [after the pandemic hit] was so rewarding. And I feel like if there was a relationship being discussed on the record, it's between me and my love affair with music. ‘Thymia’ I think means ‘boisterous spirit’ or something. The image and the lyrics to that song in my head were kind of me driving around with some camping gear in my back seat that's clanging out a rhythm of some kind. And that feeling of, even if I'm driving alone, there's something. That sound is pulling me to the thought of music. It's kind of accompanying me. I've known it for a long time. Even though it's ephemeral, it's the most solid thing that I have.” Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman “I wanted to use the sample of Brian Wilson because that clip meant a lot to me growing up, him layering vocals on ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder).’ That song has the most stuff I've ever put on a song, and it's the most overdubby—very much in that lineage of just layer after layer after layer. Emotionally, it’s similar to that idea of, like, ‘My clothes are torn but the air is clean.’ That feeling like it can be okay to be a little ragged and you can still feel good, like being exhausted at the end of a long run or something. That image of the maternal and feminine would again be a reference to music. Like my receiver, cradling me again. Kind of like being subsumed by music and comforted and consoled by it.” Shore “‘Cradling Mother’ could be the climax maybe, and ‘Shore’ felt like an epilogue. In the same way that ‘Wading in Waist-High Water’ is a prologue. Lyrically, it's tying up some loose ends, talking to the kin that you rely on—your family or your heroes—and thanking them. It references the shore as this stable place and questions whether you're really at the boundary between danger and safety when you're there. I'd actually had a surfing accident where I snapped my leash and I really felt like I was going to drown. It took me 15 minutes to swim to shore and I kept getting pummeled by waves. I was so happy to make it back. I've been pretty afraid since then to do that much surfing in bad conditions. But to me, that image was this comforting thing that then kind of dissolves. The vocals break apart and then it's like you're getting back in the water and you're catching one sound and your voices are blending together and falling apart. You're subsumed by water, and then the seas calm, but you're floating into the future.”

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