Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Album Review: Fleet Foxes-Fleet Foxes

I've attempted to start this review a few times now, and each time I end up tossing my ideas. Something about music changing the, too serious. Then something about how music has the ability to touch us in ways that no other medium, too cheesy. So, finally, in my attempt to describe how I feel about Fleet Foxes' debut album, this is what I have to say: it's damn good. That's it. It didn't change my life like some other albums have. It didn't make me embrace a form of music I'd previously rejected or ignored. What it did do was punch my face with damn good music.

First things first: Fleet Foxes sound like what Pet Sounds would have sounded like had Brian Wilson decided to wait a few years and respond to Deja Vu instead of Rubber Soul. Singer/main songwriter Robin Pecknold has a voice that fits the rustic music perfectly, and the fact that it's soaked in enough reverb to give it that "singing in an empty cathedral" sound fits the mood all the better. Even though the album was released in 2008, it could have just as easily been released in 1970, or, in a couple of cases, 1570. Obviously albums weren't around back then, nor was the technology to make them, but I'm sure you get the picture.

The album kicks off with a quirky little a'capella number that talks about red squirrels. Aside from the fact that it's clearly a separate entity than the first song, it's a perfect segue into what the band is: a little weird, a little different, but really nice on the ears. This quick, 20 second intro leads directly into the "official" album opener, Sun It Rises, which is a driving, building song. It's the type of song with simple lyrics that somehow seem deeper when sung than when read. Even though there are modern instruments, such as electric guitar and organ, it's clear that this is acoustic based material. That being said, those instruments add a perfect element of depth without being overwhelming.

Next track, White Winter Hymnal, is an exercise in perfect harmony, as the band builds layer upon layer of harmonized vocals. It's something that can be taxing on a listener when not done properly, and let me just say, they do it properly.

My possible favorite song on the album is Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, which is what I had in mind when I said the album would fit in being played in the 16th century. Featuring nothing but Robin singing and strumming his guitar, one can't help but get a mental image of a wandering Renaissance era musician walking through a forest somewhere, singing to pass the time.

The last track, Oliver James, is the only one that makes me hesitate to declare Tiger Mountain Peasant Song my favorite on the album. Again putting Robin and his guitar center stage, it really allows him to flex his (vocal) muscles. People have vocal muscles, right?

All in all, I'd say that this is one of the few albums I've ever heard that didn't change my life, but actually did change my life. What I mean by that is, like I said, I didn't have any epiphanies while listening to it, nor did I make any new discoveries that could be credited to it. On the other hand, after having it ingrain itself into my subconscious for the past (almost) two years, I can't imagine my life without it. And that, my friends, is the mark of damn good music.

Oliver James

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