Monday, January 5, 2015

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)

Best Song: Ragged Wood

Lineup Change:

Robin Pecknold – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Songwriting
Skyler Skjelset – Lead Guitar
Casey Wescott – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Craig Curran – Bass, Vocals
Nicholas Peterson – Drums, Vocals


Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut made them the indie heroes of the moment, the next Big New Thing in 2008, along with Vampire Weekend, and this was completely deserved. If you've heard Sun Giant, you more or less know what to expect here – folk-rock and pop in the style of Fairport Convention or Lindisfarne or whoever, but with more emphasis on melody and vocal harmonies. The arrangements are more intricate, I suppose, but overall this is just an extension of what you've already heard on Sun Giant.

“Sun It Rises” really lives up to its title, with its grand organ sound, epic guitar lines, and gradual buildup to a folk-rock harmony-drenched explosion that really sounds like the breaking of dawn. “Ragged Wood” is another great example of the more detailed arrangements, as it has three distinct sections, moving from a jaunty folk jig, to a harmony drenched midsection, and then the great “Tell me anything you want/Any old lie you choose” and electric guitar lines closing it off. All three segments of the song are among the best ideas on the album, and they all interact well with each other.

“Your Protector” and “He Doesn't Know Why” are more great, epic folk tunes, filled with fantastic harmonies and lovely melodies. The latter even has a short piano tune that caps it off, and while it doesn't belong at all, it's positively gorgeous and I couldn't imagine the song without it. Sometimes they'll latch onto something more repetitive and mantra-like, and while “Quiet Houses” doesn't do much for me, as it's a little bit too repetitious, the single “White Winter Hymnal” is a fun little round that I enjoy greatly.

Occasionally, they'll try their hand at something a little more intimate, little more than Robin Pecknold and his guitar. “Oliver James” is kind of underwhelming as a closer, though it's still fine enough, like “English Son” off Sun Giant, but “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” proves that he can do this kind of thing and come out with a winner. The only tracks which really let the album down at all are “Meadowlarks” and “Heard Them Stirring”, which bookmark “Your Protector.” “Meadowlarks” is another song that's mostly just Robin Pecknold and his guitar, and it seems a little underwritten. It passes through one ear and out the other. “Heard Them Stirring” is a pleasant enough instrumental and all, but instrumentals really aren't this band's strong suit.

Fleet Foxes' debut is a very fine album that's unfortunately received some backlash in response to all the hype. I've seen a lot of criticism along the lines of “Yeah, the sound is nice and genial and all, but there's no meat to it. It's all style and no substance.” I really only hear this on “Heard Them Stirring”, “Meadowlarks,” and “Quiet Houses,” which are very pretty but don't stick much to your ribs. The rest, though, is filled with lots of great melodic and arrangement ideas, beautiful vocal harmonies, and just all around solid songwriting. If that's not meat, I don't know what is.

It's not the greatest album on earth or anything. It might not even be the best album of 2008, though I'm having trouble naming a better one – maybe Third by Portishead – but I'm just really not into this whole “Other people overrated this album, therefore I should dismiss it entirely” mentality that so many people seem to have. Overall, a very solid entry into the annals of modern folk and indie music, and while it may not deserve all of the accolades it's been given, it definitely deserves most of them.

Rating: 12/15

No comments:

Post a Comment