posted on August 05, 2008 16:41
A review of Fleet Foxes debut album
Review Snapshot: Fleet Foxes have emerged from the crowded ranks of Seattle’s indie music scene with an uncompromisingly indulgent debut of the same. Glorious vocal harmonies accompanied by rousing, anthemic instrumental pieces combine to result in one of the great records of 2008.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
Thus far, 2008 has been a year dominated by a horde of worryingly similar guitar groups, striving to become the next Strokes or Arctic Monkeys. And so, as this flood of mediocrity threatens to engulf us all (I actually listened to a Pigeon Detectives album a while back), the appearance of Fleet Foxes album came as nothing short of a lifesaver.
The album opens with the delightfully simple track, Sun it Rises, a song that speaks of the impending rising sun. Not really Bob Dylan lyrics here, or at all in the album. In fact, the subjects of the songs are so simplistic and inconsequential that they appear to act as hangers for the vocal harmonies, which are the most remarkable aspect of what Fleet Foxes do. There is even a point in the album where they disregard lyrics altogether. On the track Heard them Stirring, there are just vocal harmonies of nonsense sung over endearing guitar riffs.
After Sun it Rises, the album launches straight into the majestic White Winter Hymnal. It is at this point that the listener realises that Fleet Foxes possess something unique and special that sets them apart. The song is comprised of a litany of “I was following the, I was following the” and so on, by front man Robin Pecknold, over energetic acoustic strumming.
There is no real stand out track on this album. That may sound like a bad thing, but it is actually the strength of the record. They are all of a similarly high quality. Each song rolls into the next with flawless fluidity. It is essentially an eleven-track journey that enthralls the listener in this surreal world of nature and aesthetics, as a good Mercury Rev album does. After a couple of listens I felt at one with nature. Had I lived near I field I might have ran through it and danced with badgers and the like. But I didn’t live near a field, so instead I just listened to the album again.
Fleet foxes' debut is at times slow burning, but never dull. It is filled with sentiment, but never consumed by it. One slight criticism is the similarity in the voice of Robin Pecknold to that of My Morning Jackets Jim James. However the music could not be more different and consequently Fleet Foxes maintain their originality.
If you were attempting to try and assign Fleet Foxes to one particular genre, you might be torn between country and alternative rock. It is likely that Fleet Foxes have amassed inspiration from a variety of musical sources and have subsequently set up their own stall with this album.
One of the truly special moments of what is generally a special album occurs about two and a half minutes into Blue Ridge Mountains. Pecknold thrusts into a mesmerising chorus which goes “in the quivering forest, where the shivering dog rests, I will do it grandfather, wilt to wood and end”. I have no idea what it means, but I like it.
Oliver James is the final song on the album and it has the effect of winding down what has been an enjoyable little trip. It is basic acoustic guitar picking in the background to the vocals of Pecknold. In the end, the guitar is rendered unnecessary and the album is completed by a lone voice singing, “Oliver James washed in the rain, no longer”, a couple of times and then its all over. But more then likely you will just put it back to track one and start again.
Fleet Foxes have announced themselves in fine fashion with this debut album. It just goes to show that on occasion, wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on making really nice song, instead of searching for lyrical perfection and letting the melody suffer in the process? Why not just sing melodically over some fine music and make an album about meadowlarks and mountains? Just a thought.