Fleet Foxes albums
Robin Pecknold – Guitar, Lead Vocals
Skylar Skjelset – Guitar
Christian Wargo – Guitar
Casey Wescott – Keyboards
Joshua Tillman – Drums
Simon & Garfunkel; My Morning Jacket; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Beachwood Sparks; The Beach Boys
2008 – (4 / 5) – Fleet Foxes
2011 – (4.5 / 5) – Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes – (4 / 5)
Fleet Foxes music brings a refresh to the meaning “pastoral”. Their music is a mix of Appalachian folk, ethereal dream pop, and roots rock. While an obvious comparison would be My Morning Jacket with a xanax on hand, the music is deeper and more personal than some kind of tribute band. “Sun It Rises” is an apt name for the opening tune, acting like the band is waking up to play at the dawn of a new day; it is a gentle but poignant ballad. “Your Protector” and he doesn’t know why establish the group as a new voice in the folk rock scene of old, being both relaxing ballads as well as over emotional attacks on the system. “Ragged Wood” ups th ante even further, being a sort of progressive rock ballad that uses echoing guitar interplay with triple-tracked vocals and changes course and tempo several times throughout the song. “Oliver James” and “Tiger Mount Pleasant Song” retain the link to old fashioned, baroque folk rock, with a minimal arrangement. Fleet Foxes music is easy to listen to but always feels more serious and meaningful than your average and, which propels the to the top of the folk rock pantheon.
While being a pleasant listen throughout, not every song on this debut album is as good as the last. “Quiet Houss”, Heard them Stirring”, and “Blue Ridge Mountains” lack the stamina of the better tunes on the record, and being scattered throughout gives the record a slightly inconsistent feel. The playing and instrumentation is unified as well, but could use some variety and more of a surprise elemtn as this kind of simplistic, stripped down approach can wear thin after a while. The key song on the album and the moment that deserves the most attention is “White Winter Hymnal”. “WWH” is a song that instantly sounds timeless, and brings a feeling of nostalgia and sedatives to the album to follow. The repetition and duality approach to the vocals recalls a Capella groups mixed with a kind of astute northern timbre not usually found in rock music. IT could be a Christmas song, it could be a church hymn, but somehow it retains a certain air of mystery to it while being completely original to the band. Simply put, “White Winter Hymnal” gives hope to future folk rock and should be the template the band builds on in the future.
Greatest Songs: White Winter Hymnal, Your Protector, He Doesn’t Know Why, Oliver James
Helplessness Blues – (4.5 / 5)
The second album from Fleet Foxes does what a second album should and expands their sound in many ways. The album is longer with more songs, and the song lengths are longer as well, some exceeding eight minutes. There is a bit of a progressive rock ambition in songs such as “The Plains/Bitter Dancer” and “The Shrine / An Argument”, and it especially succeeds in the latter by becoming an almost experimental art piece. Much of the old folk and jangle pop sound still survives on the albums strongest tunes: “Battery Kinzie” is a jolly tune that matches any vocal harmonies from the previous record, “Lorelai” is giddy with homage to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album tracks; “Grown Ocean” is an epic way to summarize the album with music and lyrics to match; “Montezuma” is a folk tune for the ages that is truly timeless. Any influence the band once had (My Morning Jacket, Crosby Stills & Nash) is more synergized and blended together and combined with the larger ambitions, while Fleet Foxes out grows their old sound to form a sound with no limits or barriers. Sadly, this was to be their last record as the band members would break up and splinter in to other projects after this record. Maybe someday they will gather again, because with the promise of this mighty record, their career was cut far too short.
Greatest Songs: Battery Kinzie, The Shrine/An Argument, Grown Ocean, Lorelai