Fleet Foxes - Ragged Wood
In a recent interview Robin Peknold, lead singer and songwriter of Fleet Foxes said 'Four people singing is just as close as you can get musically, because you're all standing next to each other and you're all just an interval away. It just reminds me of family.' With these close harmonies Fleet Foxes made quite an impression at the South By Southwest Festival combining choral singing with folk, gospel, rock and pop to awesome effect. And after the glorious Sun Giant EP the sun has risen again on the debut album from the Seattle quintet.
Opener Sun It Rises begins with a bluesy sounding acapella before an acoustic guitar brings in a far more West Coast sound. A lovely beginning. White Winter Hymnal is an amazing track, the opening line repeated like a round as more voices join in to layer the harmonies on top of one another. The track builds before breaking down to just the voices again at the end. Simple but brilliant. Frequent references to the landscape and wildlife give the album a pastoral folksy feel typified by tracks like Meadowlarks and Blue Ridge Mountains. Ragged Wood has that country feel before quietening and allowing the voices to take control, making it two tracks in one really. Robin Peknold sings alone on Tiger Mountain Peasant Song to great effect, sounding like an ancient balladeer; music both classical and contemporary. He Doesn't Know Why is a great pop song. Your Protector sounds like it could come from Civil War era America and with its flutes reminded me for some reason of Simon and Garfunkel. The album finishes with Oliver James, which tells the sad tale of a drowning. ' On the kitchen table that your grandfather did make/You in your delicate way will slowly clean his face/And you will remember when you rehearsed the actions of/An innocent and anxious mother full of anxious love'. Beautiful.
It isn't a perfect album. The simple Quiet Houses sounds like it might be a good vocal warmup for the band before a gig and the almost instrumental Heard Them Stirring is pretty but a bit of a filler. But the rest of the album is strong, undeniably beautiful and will make a great soundtrack for quiet summer evenings. To steal a line of Peknold's this is 'The sound of ancient voices ringing soft upon your ear'.
After that SXSW success Fleet Foxes are well worth seeing live I reckon. Their UK and Ireland dates are as follows:
29th May - SHHHH, London
9th June - AUDIO, Brighton
10th June - LOUISIANA, Bristol
11th June - ULU, London
12th June - THE SOCIAL, Nottingham
14th June - WHELANS, Dublin
15th June - BRUDNELL SOCIAL, Leeds
16th June - SHHH, London
17th June - ROADHOUSE, Manchester
18th June - ABC, Glasgow