Review Summary: Seattle band showing great promise with an acclaimed debut bringing back folk to a larger audience.
Fleet Foxes have been one of the most refreshing sounds to be spotted so far in 2008. Following up their acclaimed Sun Giant EP, their self-titled full debut brings forward a blend of americana, pop, folk, and hymnal sounds. Still very much in their youth, the group have already established harmonies reminiscent of the great Brian Wilson, guitar interplay associated with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and an ensemble sound which culminates in a finely produced record.
The intimacy of this band is outlined from the beginning of the album. "Sun it Rises" introduces that campfire feel of acoustic guitars, banjo, and heart felt harmonies led by lead singer Robin Pecknold. However, the first fiersome entry of the electric guitar announces something a little more ambitious than that initial Simon & Garfunkel tone. "Ragged Wood" opens with a chant suggesting west african influences reminiscent of Baaba Maal but moves on to a chugging beat based song popularised most recently by Arcade Fire, a band also located on that north-west side of America. This song is a sign of the potential Fleet Foxes has as it moves even further forward into an interlude sounding almost 70's prog before returning to a variant on the opening melody. This contrast is one of the many strengths the band has in showing their energy and emotion.
The album itself always keeps its balance never over-killing on the bands many sounds. On tracks such as "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and "Oliver James" we hear the wonderful talent of Pecknold with only guitar and voice. These moments of retreat give the listener time to appreciate both the instrumental work of the group and its words and themes. The opening line of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" brings forth that mysterious
feel seen in many of the tracks. "Wanderers this morning came by, Where did they go, Graceful in the morning light, To banner fair".
While many bands these days are touted for great things after perhaps only a release of an EP/single, Fleet Foxes seem to show a great variation of influences and sounds to constantly move forward. The album is a treat for anyone, whether wanting to rekindle the folk rock movement of the late 60's/early 70's or just looking for a modern unique record.