"What a life I lead in the summer/ What a life I lead in the spring..." a chorale sings, solemnly echoing from the speakers.
Well, when a band is just starting out, they have to get your attention somehow. And the Fleet Foxes manage that at the start of their debut EP, "Sun Giant" -- a whirl of exquisitely baroque, elusively pretty rock-pop melodies. And most of it sounds like they recorded it inside a cathedral, or some other big echoey space.
It opens with the title track, a solemn harmony of choir-like vocals accompanied only by a plucked mandolin. "What a life I lead when the sun breaks free/as a giant torn from the clouds/what a life indeed when that ancient seed/is a berry watered and plowed," the Fleet Foxes intone, sounding very innocent and awestruck.
Then the tone shifts with the bittersweet "Drops in the River," with its eerie, vaguely medieval flavour ("On the shores, speak to the ocean and the sea"). "English House" drops into a catchy folk-pop number shimmering with woobly synth and nimble countryish riffs. Think a folksier Grizzly Bear, if you must compare it to something.
The rock sound becomes a bit more organic after that, with the smooth, tight pop melody of "Mykonos," but it's still punctuated with jangly guitars and soaring harmonies. And "Innocent Son" rounds the EP off with a subtle, wistful little folk melody that laments, "some twisted thorn tells me you saw me in the night with another..."
This dramatic intro to the Fleet Foxes -- as well as the whole EP -- does exactly what it's supposed to do: lures you in with beautiful music, and stokes excitement for their future music. I had a lot of trouble figuring out anything much to criticize, because the blended styles, instrumentals and lyrics are so polished and heartfelt in their beauty. Eventually, I sort of gave up.
They don't even have a particular style -- instead we get a blend of rock, folk and electronica. Earthy acoustics sit side-by-side with shimmering electric guitars and growly string melodies, and the wibbly electronica meshes seamlessly with the ringing, jangly melodies. Occasionally they throw something extra into the mix, like that mandolin.
Robin Pecknold's high, sweet voice rings through most of the songs, although at times the band opts for a chorus-sound -- think postpubescent choirboys having a reunion. And they already have a knack for lyrics full of beauty, sorrow and evocative language ("Rust suddenly falling beside me on a ghost of a morning/riding in sorrow to the harbor/far behind me, the bodies of my friends...").
The Fleet Foxes spin up a truly lovely, powerful little EP, crammed with emotion, poetry and plenty of vocal depth. "Sun Giant" really does shine.