[sic] Magazine

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Sub Pop/Bella Union
Review by Jamie Milton

The opening seconds of ‘Sun It Rises’ recite seeing squirrels at particular times of the day. You can’t help but feel slightly pessimistic. Then the anti-stereotypical country sounds kick in. Reverb carrying itself around the scenery, Robin Pecknold’s truly beautiful voice finally gracing the stage. “Sun riiiiises….ooooover my head”, and we’re away.

Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut would be pretty much nothing without the vocals. If we were at loss for the hypnotic, soothing vocal melodies that you only discover once in a thousand bands, this album could pass as being played to old age pensioners on trips to Scottish hills – of course every now and again we hear glimmers of experimentation and diversity musically but we simply wouldn’t have given the record a chance to highlight that if it were absent from its voices. With them though, it becomes outstanding.

This Seattle five-piece base every single song around melody and harmony. No matter what the electric guitar is playing at, no matter whether a more obscure instrument is making a cameo in the background or not – all you can focus on is the astonishing vocal harmonies. They are the very essence of what Fleet Foxes stand for and they are the very reason why this record is as special as it is. With the help of thesaurus.com, I can think of a thousand heartfelt complements to send in the direction of this record – remarkable, wondrous, phenomenal to name a few but instead of bragging to you about the amount of times I’ve lost myself to this album, I’ll explain why Fleet Foxes pretty much tops the stupendous pile of stellar albums that have all come along at once in the last month.

“Come down from the mountain you have been gone too long” demands Pecknold. It’s when ‘Ragged Wood’ commences that the album finally hits its stride. Sure, you won’t hear a better opening three tracks this year, but although ‘Sun In Rises’ and ‘White Winter Hymnal’ are staggeringly good, ‘Ragged Wood’ is a statement of intent and equal in quality. Their country roots cannot be dismissed but nor can their input from various other musical districts – atmosphere is ever-present, particularly in the piano-thumping stand-out ‘He Doesn’t Know Why’ – a song which fails to get your attention initially as you’ll be getting far too carried away with the opening tracks. Stumble upon it though and you’ll instantly realise you’ve caught one hell of a fish. “My brother you were born”, Pecknold fittingly recites.

The record swings from that relaxing enticer to the foot-stomping juggernaut ‘Your Protector’. “You run with the devil!” they all claim – by this time we’re trooping around like marching bands in accordance. ‘Meadowlark’ again turns the paces direction – a lo-fi sedative of a vocal track enters, accompanied by sweetly picked acoustic guitar. A state of relaxation kicks in and continues until the closing minute of ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’ – piano keys are thrashed about worthlessly, drum cymbals are finally pounded and every ounce of energy is served flawlessly with enough to spare for the equally stirring closer ‘Oliver James’.

That’s why Fleet Foxes deserve that large chunk of one-word tributes. And if I’m prone to getting carried away every now and then let me whisper it; this debut record could find itself as my al o t ye in a few months time…..