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Fleet Foxes
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Fleet Foxes

1 Dec. 2008 | Format: MP3

£4.14 (VAT included if applicable)
Also available in CD Format
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Format: Audio CD
In a recent interview Robin Peknold, lead singer and songwriter of Fleet Foxes said 'Four people singing is just as close as you can get musically, because you're all standing next to each other and you're all just an interval away. It just reminds me of family.' With these close harmonies Fleet Foxes made quite an impression at the South By Southwest Festival combining choral singing with folk, gospel, rock and pop to awesome effect. And after the glorious Sun Giant EP the sun has risen again on the debut album from the Seattle quintet.

Opener Sun It Rises begins with a bluesy sounding acapella before an acoustic guitar brings in a far more West Coast sound. A lovely beginning. White Winter Hymnal is an amazing track, the opening line repeated like a round as more voices join in to layer the harmonies on top of one another. The track builds before breaking down to just the voices again at the end. Simple but brilliant. Frequent references to the landscape and wildlife give the album a pastoral folksy feel typified by tracks like Meadowlarks and Blue Ridge Mountains. Ragged Wood has that country feel before quietening and allowing the voices to take control, making it two tracks in one really. Robin Peknold sings alone on Tiger Mountain Peasant Song to great effect, sounding like an ancient balladeer; the music both classical and contemporary. He Doesn't Know Why is a great pop song. Your Protector sounds like it could come from Civil War era America and with its flutes reminded me for some reason of Simon and Garfunkel. The album finishes with Oliver James, which tells the sad tale of a drowning.
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Format: Audio CD
Poor Fleet Foxes, roundly dismissed by a leading UK indie magazine (which shall remain nameless) as "hippies who sing acapella". To which the obvious response is: what's wrong with that? They do it well - very well. Sun Giant, their debut EP, was quite an attention-grabber, and its promise is amply fulfilled by this almost uniformly excellent first album. Suitably, it opens with a Southern church-style acappella burst, oddly propounding a parody of weather lore: "Red squirrel in the morning/red squirrel in the evening." And then, with great assurance, it simply lifts off and coasts seamlessly. Comparisons with (UK-only) label mates Midlake are inevitable, given the shared massed vocal harmonies, acoustic folk influences and weird rural narratives in the lyrics, but really Fleet Foxes are a more accessible proposition: Robin Pecknold's writing packs this record full of grand pop hooks. The reverb is not only in-your-face but utterly spot-on; this is what the Walker Brothers might have sounded like if they'd had access to more modern studio technology, and what an additional joy it is to hear a modern record that is neither ridiculously compressed nor overlong (it lasts just over 39 minutes). Such is the quality that it's impossible to single out highlights; easier instead to identity just a couple of tracks which are slightly below par, including the closing vocals-and-guitar-only Oliver James, this take of which sounds it's trying a little too hard. A better farewell, likewise featuring just Pecknold and guitar, would have been the dazzling Isles, on the bonus CD that comes with certain editions of the album. But otherwise Fleet Foxes' debut is a sheer delight. The band say they've been working at their music for a long time, but as Peely used to say of the Smiths, Fleet Foxes seem to have sprung fully formed from the womb, and this album is all the proof that's needed.
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By James B. Spink HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Feb. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The sticker on the front of this special version of Fleet Foxes debut album says that it now contains all Fleet Foxes songs yet recorded - but it doesn't! CD one contains the first album with no bonus tracks and CD two contains the Sun Giant ep with no bonus tracks - there is no sign of the Fleet Foxes eponymous self-released demo ep from 2006.

The missing tracks are
1. "She Got Dressed"
2. "In the Hot, Hot Rays"
3. "Anyone Who's Anyone"
4. "Textbook Love"
5. "So Long to the Headstrong"
6. "Icicle Tusk"
Anyone expecting to find these tracks here will be disappointed; it would have been nice to have had them added as bonus tracks.

However, that is a minor quibble and what you do get is superb timeless music with many influences - but still able to sound fresh and original. Robin Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset are the main members influencing the band's sound and direction and both are still relatively young - their musical maturity reflecting the diversity of their parent's musical taste. I didn't think I would ever hear another contemporary version of False Knight on the Road, a classic from the Martin Carthy era Steeleye Span (Child Ballad No 3), but Fleet Foxes tackle it and make it their own.

That's just one example of their varied influences; if someone had played me the album and told me it was a lost sixties classic I could easily have believed it. And yet it still manages to sound fresh and relevant to today; a rare achievement. It is classic American music that will stand the test of time - I just hope the follow-up, due later this year, can live up to the expectation. If you have enjoyed BBC4's recent season of Folk America programmes you will love the music here too.
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