Friday, June 20, 2008

Fleet Foxes -- Fleet Foxes (2008)

Fleet Foxes -- Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Fleet Foxes fits in quite well with contemporary indie rockers who give off a strong ‘70s country, folk or pop vibe. If you’re into the more trad side of My Morning Jacket, or Midlake, or wish The Shins and Band Of Horses were more rustic, then Fleet Foxes are for you.

Of all of the aforementioned artists, the Foxes probably come closest to the sensibility of Midlake. Like Midlake, Fleet Foxes don’t just mine old sounds, they seek to create their own world, both through the music and fleeting aspects in the lyrics. While not as impressionistic as Midlake, the Foxes try to authentically sound like they came from a few decades back.

Some songs mix joyful melodies with echoey vocals and blissful stacked harmonies, such as “Ragged Wood”. This track is somehow hopeful and haunted, loping its way to wherever the music seems to need to go. The playing is superb, with subtly effective bass playing and beautiful guitar lines. This pastoral track is intimate yet also has a spaciousness to it that makes it feel very large. Robin Pecknold’s vocals are treated with just a little bit of reverb, adding a mystical, spiritual quality to the sound.

There are some pop qualities to this band. This comes through strongly on “Quiet Houses”. The song is keyed by the excellent harmony vocals and great lead guitar playing. The primary hook of the song is a great neo-Byrds twangy guitar line. The instrumental break out of the second refrain is very Pet Sounds, as if The Beach Boys became the Deep In The Woods Boys.

And you can’t escape the gospel feel to the group vocals. This is explicit on the aptly titled “White Winter Hymnal”. Pecknold melds the ‘70s pastoral music he likes so much with a touch of the church. This is one song that sounds like it’s a traditional number.

At times, I’m in awe of the sheer beauty of the music. “Meadowlark” is breathtaking, Pecknold’s strong voice singing over sparse guitar accompaniment. The lyrics are old-fashioned and when the band comes in to hum a melody after the second verse, it’s shiver inducing.

This alone would be great, but the Foxes also are capable of anthemic power. The dramatic build of “Your Protector” shows off a side of the band that’s not so much explosive as smoldering. This isn’t the rousing, fist in the air sound of The Arcade Fire. It’s the sound of a band that doesn’t need to rock out to floor you, creating mood and tension.

What I find most interesting is that for all the feelings this album stirs up in me, most of the lyrics just pass by me, but for a snatch here or there. This is probably the one thing that keeps this album from rising to the highest heights. Whatever this music stirs up, it’s pay off is more in the style than anything else. But that’s about the only thing about this album that isn’t superb.

No comments: