Is it ever okay to take a public pause? The idea of taking a break, for whatever reason, is something that every creative person worries about: If we stop sharing our work, does it lose its power? Is art only defined by the very act of being seen, heard, absorbed, or touched? One has to image this was on the mind of Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, when he put the band on hold to go to college and move to New York City. And their newest single, “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” from their forthcoming LP, Crack Up, tries to show that the music can pick up, quite literally, from exactly where it left off.
May 3 is the date that the Fleet Foxes’ last album, Helplessness Blues, was released. (It’s also the birthday of band mate Skyler Skjelset.) And the first line — set to the band’s familiar lush textures — is about the power of songs to linger on once the sun has risen on an evening of music. “Light ended the night, but the song remained,” sings Pecknold. Notes have a way of reverberating silently way past their last audible moment, getting caught in the awnings, sidewalks, and streetlights of the city — like cigarette smoke, its scent sticks to your hair well after the final ash. So is it ever okay to take a public pause? “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” is the Fleet Foxes’ answer to that loaded question: The end of things is only relative to when we tune out and just stop listening.