The Fleet Foxes are my favorite band right now. Most people have never heard of them; some people who I have introduced to their music, find the lyrics too cryptic or depressing. True, some of their lyrics are obscure, but not all – and the music itself is just what I like. Most of Helplessness Blues makes sense, for example, and it really speaks to me:
You can really feel the conflict in that song. There are mixed desires: to belong to something bigger than oneself (“a functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me”); the yearning for a sense of place and belonging, and someone to give guidance (“What’s my name, what’s my station? Oh, just tell me what I should do!”) – and also the desire for independence (“why should I wait for anyone else?”), and anger at perceived manipulation and abuse by those in power (“armies of night who would do such injustice to you… men who move only in dimly-lit halls and determine my future for me”).
It leaves the narrator in a confused state (“I don’t know what that will be…” “I don’t know who to believe…” “everything that I see of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak”), but ready to decide for himself (“I’ll get back to you someday soon myself”). It ends with him imagining going back to a simpler way of life, working the land, with his beloved (“if I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore…” “gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn”) hoping to achieve the (unrealistic) ideal of happiness that we see portrayed in movies and fairytales (“Someday I’ll be like the man on the screen…”).
The basic sentiments, if not the details, really resonate with me right now.
Here’s another one:
These poetic lyrics are very clear. On one hand, there’s the realization that to some extent, we are who we are, and there are things that we cannot change (“all that I’d hoped would change within me, stayed”) – and yet we have a choice regarding what we make with the raw material we have. There is the resulting conflict between different sides of one’s personality (“I walk with others in me, yearning to get out”) – who we really are, who we’d like to be, and who we can realistically become. This goes hand in hand with the tension between seeking social acceptability and the need to “be yourself” regardless of the what other people think (“One of them wants only to be someone you’d admire / One would as soon just throw you on the fire”). The real trick is to figure out who the best us is, accepting that no matter what we chose, there will be consequences. Becoming our best selves is a constant journey whose outcome is a mystery: “After all is said and after all is done / God only knows which of them I’ll become”.
I can totally empathize.
Lastly, this song about the passing of time is just plain awesomeness, even if the lyrics don’t all seem to make sense when put together: