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4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, March 26 2013
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this album delivers on all levels. Great to have the Sun Giant ep along with it. Surely to be in the collection for many years.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hold me dear, into the night, June 4 2008
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fleet Foxes (Audio CD)
The Fleet Foxes are a rock band that sounds like no other -- imagine a pastoral choir overwhelming a sweeping folk-rock band, in the middle of a sunlit forest in the spring.

That's about the sound of the Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut album -- it's a stream of lush, jangly folk pop, edged with a touch of baroque and country-rock. While their "Sun Giant" EP was an excellent introduction, it's nothing compared to the rough-edged grandeur of the full-length album, with its glorious instrumentation and vivid lyricism.

The only really offputting part of the album is the opening five seconds, when an off-key chorale sings, "Reeeeed squirrel in the morning/Reeeeeeeed squirrel in the evening..."

Then the song suddenly melts into a gentle acoustic guitar shimmering with keyboard. "The sun rises, over my head/Hold me dear, into the night/Sun it will rise soon in the morn..." Robin Pecknold sings with all the solemnity of a choirboy. His voice soars over the steelier riffs and thumping drums, only to settle down with, "The sun rising, dangling there/Golden and fair, in the sky..."

Wow. When an intro is that lovely, just imagine what the songs that follow are going to be like.

In this case, it's the shifting folky "White Winter Hymnal," with its kettle drums and beautiful campfire harmonies ("I was following... I was following... I was following the pack/all swallowed in their coats/with scarves of red tied 'round their throats"), followed by the endearingly energetic rocker "Ragged Wood" ("You should come back home/back on your own now!").

It gets no less endearing after that: Gentle bluesy ballads, jangly folk-pop with lots of squiggly mellotron, sweeping pop chorales, bouncy countryish rockers with lots of intertwined guitars. Things get quieter near the end -- "Fleet Foxes" ends with a trio of lower-key, folkier ballads, sometimes with nothing more than Pecknold's voice and a guitar.

There's something very warm and welcoming about the Fleet Foxes' music, and there's hardly a song on their self-titled album that doesn't contain that sunniness. And though the bittersweet songs focus on the usual topics -- family, love, lost friends -- there's a strong feeling of pastoral beauty, especially since they're sprinkled with meadowlarks, wood-women, "quivering forests," Tennessee and grassy graves.

In fact, the lyrics are crammed with vivid ("And, Michael, you would fall/and turn the white snow red as strawberries") and striking language ("I hold a cornucopia and a golden crown"). At times, the band's lyrics are pure poetry ("Wanderers this morning came by/Where did they go?/Graceful in the morning light/To banner fair/To follow you softly/In the cold mountain air...").

These songs are wrapped in lush melodies of striking music, which happily swirl together folk, classic earthy rock, pop, baroque and a bit of country. And an coustic guitar is the lead instrument here; sometimes it's all by itself, and sometimes it's intertwined with a smooth mix of other instruments -- hollow drums, rippling mellotron, steely guitar, and a hint of harp being plucked somewhere.

And finally there's Robin Pecknold. He sounds a little off-key in the spare ballads, but in the more complex songs he sounds sweet, strong and truly beautiful, especially when he does that soaring thing. And I have to say, I'm a sucker for the band's sunny chorale sound -- the harmonies really make those melodies sound exquisite.

The Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut is one of the best albums I've heard all year, with its blend of styles and bittersweetly lovely songs. Haunting and truly lovely.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fleet foxes deliver, July 26 2008
T. Bigney (Nova Scotia, canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fleet Foxes (Audio CD)
Fleet Foxes may have a firm grasp on rock and folk history, but they never play to their record collection. Rather than revive a particular scene or re-create a lost sound, the Seattle quintet cherrypick their ideas from a broad spectrum of styles, pulling in Appalachian folk, classic rock, AM country, and SoCal pop to create a personal synthesis of the music of their peers, their parents, and even their grandparents.

The band didn't leave town to record Fleet Foxes, yet it sounds like it could have been recorded anywhere in the United States-- Austin, Minneapolis, Chicago, Brooklyn, Louisville, or more likely some clearing in the woods. That placelessness constitutes an active effacement, considering that Seattle has been a locus for alternative music for nearly two decades. The five-piece is thoroughly embedded in that scene: Their ranks include current and former members of Crystal Skulls, Pedro the Lion, and Seldom. Furthermore, to produce the sessions that created the Sun Giant EP and this debut LP, they hired Phil Ek, best known for his work with Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, and the Shins.
Nevertheless, theirs is a studiously rural aesthetic, eschewing urban influences and using reverb like sepia-tone to suggest something much older and more rustic than it really is. The album opens with a short tune (titled "Red Squirrel" on early leaks but not listed on the CD) that could be a field recording sung by a small-town congregation 50 years ago. It ushers us into Fleet Foxes' old world; after a few bars, the song darts into the heraldic "Sun It Rises", which sure enough sounds like someone's idea of a sunrise over an evergreen mountain. But they're not done yet: Just as the song fades, it rises into a quiet coda that previews two more elements of their sound-- the patient guitar lick on "Blue Ridge Mountains" and the vocal harmonies that color numerous songs on the record. All that's missing are the crackles and hisses of an old LP. (Fortunately, Sub Pop is issuing it on vinyl.)

What follows is surprisingly full and wide ranging, almost as much as the Bruegel painting that graces the album's cover. Skye Skjelset's guitar roams wherever it pleases, while drummer Nicholas Peterson keeps the songs in check, allowing the band to move freely but not wander too far into the woods. A flute, half-submerged in the mix, adds lurking menace to the album's most intense jam, "Your Protector", and Casey Wescott's staccato piano rhythm runs through "Blue Ridge Mountains", heightening the momentum of the chorus.

For all the album's winding paths and unexpected vistas, Fleet Foxes' harmonies remain the primary draw, and they've written and arranged these songs to showcase their shared vocals. "Heard Them Stirring" has no lyrics, but it's hard to call it an instrumental. Against a shuffling shaker-and-tambourine rhythm, "Ragged Wood" switches between Robin Pecknold's lead vocals and the band's harmonies after each verse, effectively translating classic rock via folk elements. There's as much Fleetwood Mac as the Band in the song's rousing finale. On the other hand, Fleet Foxes do restraint just as well: "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" features only a lone acoustic guitar and Pecknold's forceful vocals, which switch to a spooky falsetto on the outro.

Vocals play such a primary role in Fleet Foxes' music that Pecknold's lyrics at times sound like merely a delivery system for harmonies, with references to meadowlarks, rising suns, and streams bolstering the rural and placeless evocations. However, these are ultimately carefully and well-crafted compositions. On "White Winter Hymnal", a firelit roundelay that best showcases the band's vocal interplay, the lyrics convey strange, almost Edward Gorey-like imagery: "I was following the pack/ All swallowed in their coats/ With scarves of red tied 'round their throats/ To keep their little heads from falling in the snow/ And I turned 'round and there you go." Who knows exactly what the words mean, but the fairy-tale menace comes through in full color, and Peterson's floor-tom beat and the intricacy of the band's harmonies dispel the threat without diluting the mystery.
Fleet Foxes ends with "Oliver James", another nearly a cappella showcase for Pecknold's solo vocals. As he thumps out a soft rhythm on his Martin acoustic, he sings about handmade tables and long-gone grandparents, howling the chorus "Oliver James, washed in the rain/ No longer." The brief snippet of "Red Squirrel" and "Sun It Rises" invites you into Fleet Foxes' debut, but "Oliver James" doesn't shoo you out the door. Instead, Fleet Foxes let you linger for a few more bars, leaning forward to catch Pecknold's last syllable as it fades into the air. They don't seem to want the record to end any more than you will.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robin Pecknold loves to sing, July 18 2009
This review is from: Fleet Foxes (Audio CD)
Unlike some other great singers (ahem, Eddie Vedder), Robin Pecknold says he loves to sing, and sing he does on many tracks here. On the whole, I wish that there were some more songs with tempo to them. But tracks like White Winter Hymnal, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and Oliver James make this album a real pleasure. If they ever hook up with a producer that brings some real energy to the songs they just might make a truly classic CD. This comes close.
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Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes (Audio CD - 2008)
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