I'm going to come out of the gate with a bold statement, which is that Fleet Foxes' sophomore effort is even better than their debut. Every year we have multiple bands that blow people away with their debut albums; this year so far it's Yuck and The Vaccines, but most of them flop on their followup. Making their first album is a relatively simple process for most bands — they just go in and record the best songs they have, which they've usually been playing for a long amount of time already. There isn't much expected from them; the job of the debut album is simply to give listeners an idea of what the band is like. Most bands make it their definitive statement.
But the sophomore effort is a completely different animal. The songs have to be written and executed under pressure and usually within a short period of time, or else the band is either written off as old news or, in Fleet Foxes' case, the hype builds and builds. This is where most bands crack, and to me when a band succeeds at this point, it is a sign that they will be in it for the long run. Fleet Foxes have definitely succeeded.
They chose to take their time and let the hype build and expectations rise, but they matched them: that almost never happens. The safe move for a band that put out a big-time debut album is usually to ride the momentum from it and record a similar set of songs quickly to put out. But Fleet Foxes evidently did not want to do that. That would have resulted in a set of songs that wasn't quite as good as the debut album. Robin Pecknold was confident enough in his ability to match the expectations to take time out to make something great again, even though it took a while. It's somewhat reminiscent of Arcade Fire, who only put out an album every three years or so but each time they do, the album becomes classic. It speaks volumes that Fleet Foxes was able to pull this off — they are the real deal.
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