Best Albums of the 00s: Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)

The penultimate entry in my list of favourite albums released throughout the noughties is the debut offering from the Fleet Foxes. At first, I had avoided the band because they’d been the subject of a bit too much hype in the music press and online. I imagined that they were just another cool indie band, although this was before I had actually heard any of their music. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised when I got around to listening to them. The first song I heard was White Winter Hymnal and it encapsulates a lot of what the band is about. Straight away, the close harmony vocals reminded me of a certain American group from the sixties. As nearly every review or feature pointed out, the influence of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was quite apparent. Certainly, the vocal harmonies, the a capella moments, and the elements of folk singing were borrowed from CSNY. Another vocal influence that is not as obvious at first, but becomes apparent after numerous listens, is the influence of gospel music which highlights the spiritual side of their music

Musically, the group’s sound bears similarities to other types of American music from the late 60s and early 70s: West coast pop; country music; prog and soft rock. However, the record actually sounds like it was recorded in the days before rock ‘n’ roll (It also sounds like it was recorded in the woods). Overall, their music is timeless and also has a sense of placelessness about it. This sense is not only present in the vocals but also in the style of finger-picked guitar and the use of more traditional instruments such as organs, bells and strings. This sound gives their music a rural, pastoral quality that can also be found in the recurring themes of nature that pervade their song lyrics. All of the songs on the album contain some references to the countryside, to rivers and mountains, to animals and birds, or to different seasons. Because of this rustic quality to their music, I was quite surprised to learn that the members of the band actually hail from the suburbs of Seattle. As a listener who lives in the suburbs of a small Irish city, perhaps the album reminds me of Appalachian folk music, a type of American rural music that came to the States from Ireland and Scotland. It took me a while to get into this album, but I’ve listened to it a lot over the last year and I never tire of it. Even though the band has used music and ideas that are not new, I think they have managed to combine all these sounds and words to create something that I feel is fresh and original and exciting. I think that this album will also stand the test of time and that future generations will listen to it and wonder from which decade or even century it originates. I’ll wrap up by bringing you back to the present day with a couple of covers of songs from the album:

White Winter Hymnal (Fleet Foxes cover) – Dirty Mittens

Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Fleet Foxes cover) – First Aid Kit


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