Fleet Foxes06.24.08   |   Posted in: Music   |   By: Laurel Dailey
Tags: Fleet Foxes, Oh So Indie
I hate comparisons.
Comparisons are nearly always unfair, no matter how flattering one thinks they might be. So it is with this disclaimer that I launch into a longwinded spiel about Fleet Foxes‘ latest self-titled album.
Let’s be out with it: This album reminds me of My Morning Jacket (of the inimitable Z years, and far less like the somewhat baffling Evil Urges), Chutes Too Narrow-era Shins, and to a lesser extent, Band of Horses (again, first full length and not the subsequently inferior EP). Obviously there are a myriad of other influences, from Appalachian folk standards to baroque melodies to 60′s-era Beach Boys, but for all intents and purposes, those three specific artists/albums are the focus today.
Sure, there are the moments when Fleet Foxes’ melodic structure mimics James Mercer’s atmospheric hooks, and Foxes’ lead singer Robin Pecknold’s soaring timbre and pronunciation might well be ripped Little Mermaid-style straight from the throats of Jim James or Ben Bridwell. There are those moments. And sure, comparisons are wont to be made because you can’t listen to an album so self-assured and seeped in southern hospitality without inferring certain influences along the way.
But the main reason I cite MMJ and the Shins (and, as I said, to a lesser extent, B of H) as the Big 3 Influences of Fleet Foxes’ sepia-toned romp through the woods isn’t because of the aural similarities at all (though they do exist). It’s because those (Z, Chutes Too Narrow, Everything All the Time) albums seemed to chug along at breakneck speed, appearing over the horizon and hitting me square in the face with their uniform and unparalleled excellence.
If you’re honest with yourself as I am (most of the time), when listening to an album, I tend to skip around a lot. And despite plenty of assertions you might make to the contrary, I’d be the first to say that there aren’t many albums whose worth remains solidly intact from track 1 through track end. Sure, there are plenty of albums whose hits outnumber their misses, but even on the best of days, when I’m scrolling aimlessly through my dark and cavernous iTunes library, the ratio of albums I’d listen to in their entirety to songs I’d select out of the whole is disproportionately in favor of the one hit wonders.
But Z, Chutes Too Narrow, and Everything All the Time are albums that struck me upside the head with the blunt force of a frying pan. Of course! THIS is what a cohesive album sounds like. This is brilliant songwriting. These are some catchy ass hooks, y’all.
And so it goes, Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album is just like that. Sun drenched and hazy, reminiscent and rural, the type of sound you might imagine you’d come upon while driving a deserted country road in the summer of 2004, or 1974 or 1964. The Neil Young shenanigans are certainly present, to be sure, but there’s an otherworldliness here as well; it’s an album plucked squarely out of any particular or limiting time frame and placed instead in the type of context that is purely nostalgia-driven. It’s more about the sounds constructing (or recalling) a memory, the memory thus influencing the colors, the smells, and the sights. The whole thing reveals itself gracefully, block harmonies bleeding into wandering melodies, an instant classic from a band whose own lineage is less important than the one you imagine when you listen to their music.