Album Reviews

Fleet Foxes FLEET FOXES [Sub Pop]


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How five guys from Seattle, fronted by a kid barely out of his teens, managed to describe the landscape of American experience with such earnest, clear-eyed conviction on their debut EP, Sun Giant, has baffled and delighted the indie music blogosphere. Unfortunately for the publicity-shy Fleet Foxes, the long-delayed release of their self-titled LP should only increase the buzz. The band demonstrates more than ever an effortless weaving of influences ranging from '60s folk to gospel, and soaring, achingly beautiful four-part harmonies that are at turns resonant and warm, silvery and ghostlike.

Frontman Robin Pecknold and company sing about squirrels, sunrises and letting your hair grow long, but they illustrate just as convincingly helplessness, abandonment, betrayal and mortality. Stark images abound that compare blood-stained snow to strawberries in summertime or depict an empty cradle floating in a river, as in album closer "Oliver James," a gentle, lilting elegy to a drowned child. "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" isolates Pecknold's lone voice with a couple of acoustic guitars; he encounters premonitions of his death and appeals to no one, "I don't know what I have done/ I'm turning myself to a demon," before the song fades out. There is no reprieve for the narrators of the album, which flows effortlessly from one track to the next.

The songs generally don't quite hold their own as sparkling individual accomplishments as do those on the Sun Giant EP, but if Fleet Foxes occasionally suffers from sounding too self-similar, it's lucky that the model is such a magnificent one. Nearly every guitar strum, every harmonized syllable rings with a clarity that recalls the glorious sun-breaking-through-clouds opening of Band of Horses' "The First Song." On the band's Myspace blog, Pecknold apologizes for recently escalating media attention, quipping "We'll do our best to underwhelm you all." They're doing anything but.

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