96Hz/24-bit, FLAC; Nonesuch Records 558777-2 (supplied by www.highresaudio.com)

Fleet Foxes, insofar as I have been able to determine, is a millennial cult item from Seattle. Their first album in six years, Crack-Up is an exercise in high-minded art for art’s sake, in which densely orchestrated and intensely overproduced music obscures reverb-heavy lyrics whose meaning is known only to their author or his acolytes. Was the reverb intended to evoke the sensation of a live performance? Throughout most of these inscrutable compositions, one can hear echoes of every ambitious big-statement pop-rock album of the past 40 years. Some tracks are intriguing – or have intriguing parts – and the musicianship is very good, but for the most part Crack-Up is heavy-handed, self-indulgent, pretentious, overwrought, over-engineered, and baffling beyond comprehension. Repeated listening may reveal a way into the mystery, but the hook’s not there on first or second spin. BW

Sound Quality: 70%

Hi-Fi News Lab Report

Despite this collaborative effort being recorded in no fewer than six studios, levels of noise are consistently high as are incidences of spuriae. The vocal line is too hot and regularly causes the mix to hit the digital limit (0dBFs). It is loud. PM