January 27, 2009
Seattle's Fleet Foxes traffic in baroque harmonic pop. They draw influences from the traditions of folk, pop, choral, gospel, sacred harp singing, West Coast music, traditional music from Ireland to Japan, film scores, and their NW peers. The subject matter ranges from the natural world and familial bonds to bygone loves and stone cold graves.
Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut is one of the best albums I've heard in a long while. Since it's on the January play list at Barnes & Noble, I get to hear it several times a day at work. (Not that I'm complaining!) For the first few days we played the album, I had this nagging sense of déjà vu. I was curious about the group, anxious to figure out who they reminded me of. Then it came to me -- David Crosby and Neil Young! Of course, I would have discovered this a bit sooner had I gone to Amazon and read the following:
It's now twenty years since grunge emerged from then culturally isolated Seattle and Fleet Foxes, the eponymous debut album from the city's latest heroes, demonstrates just how much American independent rock has mutated in that time. The five young members of Fleet Foxes make up a very different sort of rock band, describing their own music as "baroque harmonic pop jams". Even that understates the depths of the quintet's effortless vocal harmonies and gently woozy, folky feel. Of their contemporaries only the enigmatic Midlake and My Morning Jacket at their most fragile come close, but neither could have cooked up the Beach Boys spiritual of "White Winter Hymnal" or its more powerful companion piece "Ragged Wood". In fact Fleet Foxes happily admit to aspiring to an earlier tradition--not just obvious antecedents like the Byrds, the Association, Neil Young and, especially, David Crosby's famously unfocussed solo album If Only I Could Remember My Name but ancient English folk songs and their later American descendents. All were hunted and gathered from the internet--songwriters Robin Pecknold and Skye Skjelset are barely in their twenties. Add a host of unlikely instruments and the results are stunning, the complete antithesis of mainstream stadium indie that has followed Arcade Fire. Still, the cover features a Bruegel painting of peasants that might have graced any Black Sabbath sleeve. In that way at least Fleet Foxes salute a local tradition. -—Steve Jelbert
Well, at least I recognized the cover art, thanks to all those art history courses I took several years ago. And now that I think of it, there is a bit of a Beach Boys sound to this album. That's one group that never occurred to me. They've also been compared to Supertramp. Whomever they sound like, I do love this folksy music!! Click here to listen to a snippet of each track. Then tell me what you think. I'm going to treat myself to the album. This is one I want to own (rather than download), so I can read the liner-notes.