In his interview with Pitchfork a couple months ago, Robin Pecknold of the formidably Cascadian folk-force Fleet Foxes, spoke about his seemingly irrational anxiety with the making of their equally touted second album, released this spring, Helplessness Blues. When asked about writer’s block, the looming judgment of the next release, and the heaviness of the categorization that becomes synonymous with success, Pecknold responds:

Sometimes I do get writer’s block but it’s more of a writer’s doubt– I’ll try and write but nothing goes anywhere because I start thinking everything sucks. I’m looking forward to doing things more intuitively in the future, just going with whatever happens and not immediately categorizing it as potentially good or bad or original or whatever.

When your first record is so wildly popular that it’s being sold next to Dylan in Starbucks, it seems that worry reigns supreme over success. Rather than “The Sky’s the Limit,” it’s “Where Can We Go From Here?” And this overwhelming self-consciousness shamelessly bleeds into Helplessness Blues, for the better. Pecknold really hammers into a confessional vein that was lacking in their first full-length release, and succeeds in professing a convincingly grounded understanding of constraint and finitude. This is simul iustus: the constrained will that one wants to be and yet isn’t, simultaneously dead and alive.

Note that this inner battle receives a kind of graceful resignation in “Someone You’d Admire”:


After all is said and done I feel the same
All that I hoped would change within me stayed
Like a huddled moon-lit exile on the shore
Warming his hands, a thousand years ago

I walk with others in the yearning to get out
Claw at my skin and gnash their teeth and shout
One of them wants only to be someone you’d admire
One would as soon just throw you on the fire

After all is said and after all is done
God only knows which of them I’ll become