Fleet Foxes - "Third of May / Ōdaigahara" (Singles Going Steady)

Photo: Shawn Brackbill

This is a band stepping out of its comfort zone and sounding so much better for it.

Chris Ingalls: It's been six years since the last Fleet Foxes album, so "highly anticipated" is certainly the right term to use here. Since the release of Helplessness Blues, drummer Josh Tillman jumped ship and became everyone's favorite sexy misanthrope, Father John Misty, yet the Foxes soldier on and are doing exactly what we expect of them -- deep, cavernous-sounding indie campfire folk with Robin Pecknold's keening tenor cutting through the heavy percussion and woodsy acoustic guitars. With this track, however, they diverge a bit with an epic, multi-part track reminiscent of the Decemberists' prog/folk diversions. The band test drives their sound through a series of strange avenues but it still -- thank goodness -- sounds like Fleet Foxes. This is a band stepping out of its comfort zone and sounding so much better for it. [9/10]

Mike Schiller: There's a lot to unpack here. Given the number of directions this goes in its nearly nine minutes, it's hard to tell where "Third of May" ends and "Ōdaigahara" begins, but I suspect that the dividing line is around the six-and-a-half-minute mark, making "Ōdaigahara" something of a Far Eastern-flavored coda to "Third of May". Ōdaigahara is named after a mountain in Japan, after all. In any case, this is mostly lovely, even if it's impossible to fully appreciate on the first (or even the fifth) listen. It starts out sounding like the beautiful second half of "Ragged Wood", but quickly deviates from its established groove, twisting and winding its way through movements than any sorts of verses or choruses. The effect is simultaneously dizzying and calming; any segment of the song, taken by itself, is pretty and pastoral along the lines of Fleet Foxes' best moments, but trying to keep track of it all as a cohesive work is a Herculean task. You have to applaud them for jumping back in with both feet after six years of silence. [7/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: Suitably sweeping for a song named after one of Japan’s most picturesque mountains, "Third of May / Ōdaigahara" feels wild, free, and a little bit heartbreaking. In other words, it’s a quintessential Fleet Foxes song, the kind that uses barebones acoustic sounds and their echoes to fill a huge amount of space. Casual listeners need not apply; the video version of this single clocks in at nearly nine minutes, and requires full attention as it climbs, soars and then drifts into twilight tones. It’s an intricate piece, and one worth getting tangled up in for a while. [8/10]

SCORE: 8.00

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