Decade :: Fleet Foxes, S/T (2008)


What is it that makes us want to deconstruct art by units of time? Lists. We love making them. We love arguing over them. And here, on the verge of a new decade, we’re in a position to do the same again. What were the best albums of the past ten years?

Here at AD, we started talking it through and decided we weren’t going to add to the cacophony of lists being put out by various music pubs. There are enough of those. Since the beginning of October, Monday through Friday, we have been featuring posts detailing our favorite albums of the decade. Now with three weeks left in the last year of the first decade of the new millennium we are ramping up–highlighting our absolute favorites.

FleetFoxes“There’s all this really weird stuff going on. I like that the first impression is that it’s just pretty, but then you realize that the scene is this weird chaos. I like that you can’t really take it for what it is, that your first impression of it is wrong.” That’s Robin Pecknold’s take on the cover art for Fleet Foxes self-titled debut, but he could easily be describing the debut itself.

At first listen, Fleet Foxes might be just that, a pretty piece of folk reminiscent of the pastoral pieces from which it pulls some influence. But upon repeated listens, you become enveloped in the fantastical world of Pecknold’s mind. The album’s Arcadian thatch serves to cover some Tolkien-esque, Celtic-spun fairy tale dwelling. The lyrics themselves, with allusions to far-off, far-fetched or nonexistent places, don’t always necessarily mean anything, but they don’t always have to. Because an experience is still very much created, like a story that carries you from the humdrum of everyday tedium to a peaceful and soothing fiction. And when the songs do aim for meaning, their observation is simple and natural.

Woven into the folkloric tapestry are shades of the late ’60s and early ’70s: America’s post-Guthrie/Seeger middle-folk movement, the sunny aesthetic of coastal pop, the landscape artistry of England’s singer-songwriters from the era. The five-part harmonies are the most intricate and cohesive of their kind in recent memory, and one need only witness “White Winter Hymnal” for testament. Their voices, supported by a soft instrumental fleece, do as much to transport the listener as do the words.

With the strength of their Sun Giant EP on its back (and released as a bonus to the full-length), Fleet Foxes dominated 2008 best-of lists across most music media, which is notable because of what it is. Amidst a world of synthesized or experimental urban pop movements and oft brash rock and roll, folk can sometimes get caught in the ceiling of its niche, difficultly resonating with the broader populace. The fact that such an ostensibly pure form can break ranks is evidence of Fleet Foxes’ layered and intoxicating fantasy. words/ j. crosby

MP3: Fleet Foxes :: Blue Ridge Mountains

8 thoughts on “Decade :: Fleet Foxes, S/T (2008)

  1. To be quite honest, it took me a few listens and a live performance to really get into the Fleet Foxes. They are now one of my very favorite acts.

  2. Agreed. I always thought it was a pleasant album, but seeing Fleet Foxes live really made me appreciate what they were doing. “Your Protector” is sinister live. The song has a certain evil energy the album version hints at, but live, holy shit. I thought I was running with the devil.

  3. J – I definitely understand that. They have such a full sound live it gives you the hair raisin’. This CD is give up your guitar good, so nice call on posting Blue Ridge Mountains. What a way to finish an album, Blue Ridge and then Oliver James. Damn.

  4. “To be quite honest, it took me a few listens and a live performance to really get into the Fleet Foxes. They are now one of my very favorite acts.”

    Same exact thing happened for me. Their live performance was so incredible.

  5. @ J, Mikey, Scott

    Interesting perspective, which if you guys are a microcosm seems fairly common. I had actually only heard the Sun Giant EP–and loved it–when I first saw them live (awesome, of course). The LP wasn’t yet released (though many of the songs were played). Wonder if I would’ve experienced the record differently had I not seen them live yet.

  6. I was blessed to have a blank CD sitting in my car one morning to listen to. It was Fleet Foxes self titled.

    I haven’t looked back since. The first listen made my head tilt. The second made my jaw drop. I’m an intense Brian Wilson fan and people have compared it so much to him and the Beach Boys. Why? Because they sing great harmonies? Yes they do. But there is one breakdown on the album that reminds me of the Beach Boys, and not because of the vocals.

    But I’ll agree. When I saw them live in a small Boston movie theater I couldn’t look back. It was the perfect setting. Robin could come out and sing with no need of a PA. Bloody hell that was a night of music. And he was the first one out of the show with a smoke in hand. No one even knew it was him!

    Thanks for reminding me of this night and their brilliance.

  7. I for some reason just recently got turned on to Fleet Foxes and am now scouring the web reading everything I can about them. They are my absolute fave. I really hope I get to see them live some day.

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