Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fleet Foxes Review 12.20.08

Fleet Foxes Review 12.20.08

The buzz around the Seattle-based Fleet Foxes is unmistakable. Their album was described as "one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of 2008" by Conan O'Brien as he introduced them for their appearance on his show just a few days ago. Rightly so. Favorable reviews are all over the net, everyone from Rolling Stone to NME to Pitchfork.

When an album is preceded so by its reputation, there's a risk of letting your perceptions of the album be colored by the hype, and of subconsciously making yourself like it because you think you should. Not so with Fleet Foxes. The music is so purely infectious that all of your expectations and ulterior motives melt away. Much like the escapist fantasy found in a children's storybook, you are led into a world of vivid folk pop music where all of your preconceived notions are put on hold.

The album starts out with a brief a capella piece which then rushes into the folk-tinged acoustic rhythm guitar that forms the basis for the Fleet Foxes style. It's joined by the kind of sparkling clean, vintage country-inspired electric guitar riffs that Fender amps are built for. Vocalist Robin Pecknold's voice soars up to a crystal-clear falsetto and back down again with ease, backed by a Pet Sounds-style harmony. True to the indie-pop spirit, the voices are absolutely soaked with reverb.

Lyrics are cryptic and vague... and hauntingly beautiful. In the mournful acoustic ballad "Oliver James", Pecknold sings, "On the kitchen table that your grandfather did make/ You in your delicate way will slowly clean his face/ And you will remember when you rehearsed the actions of/ An innocent and anxious mother full of anxious love". Heartwrenching.

There's a distinct feeling of antiquity that runs through the entire album. If you allow yourself to forget for a moment that this music draws mainly from Twentieth Century musical styles, you can almost place it right into the Renaissance. Of course this requires a little bit of cognitive dissonance, but perhaps that's what Fleet Foxes intended: to create an album so timeless and classic in style that it doesn't neatly fit into any time period, and requires a little bit of mental squashing and stretching to categorize it.

Rating: 4 out of 4
Reviewed by: Brenton William Brookings

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