Whatever else you can say about Fleet Foxes, they certainly have a sound: the ghosts of a hundred folk singers swaying as a choir while an acoustic guitar or two plucks out a soothingly ominous Appalachian accompaniment in tandem with a drum kit miked from 50 feet away. It’s so clearly defined that Fleet Foxes happily spend the duration of sophomore album “Helplessness Blues’’ playing the spectral murk instead of the songs they are supposed to be fleshing out. That’s not to say that the sound lacks power; the hushed, circular fingerpicking at the heart of the quasi-classical instrumental “The Cascades’’ draws in the listener, and the soft, fast strums kicking off the title track set up a song that splits its running time between agitation-free Neutral Milk Hotel and 1980s college rock dragged through five times the echo. But Fleet Foxes mostly seem content to plug away at the atmosphere established on their debut. The big question on “Helplessness Blues’’ isn’t where the songs will go, but how much distanced reverb will be featured on any given cut. (Out today)
ESSENTIAL “Helplessness Blues’’
Fleet Foxes play the Orpheum Theatre May 17.