Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fleet Foxes

My Sony mp3 player happily informs me that “every moment has its music” whenever I turn it on. This is partly true. Due to the advent of mp3 players, people can now take their music everywhere. This can make life exponentially better. Instead of taking a walk in the park, you can take a walk in the park with The Beatles or The Shins. Or, to put it in a more negative way, trips to Wal-Mart can become made worse by having Nickelback blasted into your eardrums.

However, some of us dislike the claustrophobic closeness of the earbud. Listening to music with earbuds is like having a conversation with a close talker-no matter how interesting it is, you feel like your personal space is being violated. Around-the-ear headphones are better, but the pair I have are emblazoned with huge skulls, thus making me look like I should be pierced, tattooed, and listening to The Misfits.

CD players, computers, and those nifty chords that let you hook up your mp3 player to the stereo system if you press the “Aux” button, are all good, but when it comes to listening to music somewhere other than the comfort of home or the car, I am at a loss. A boom-box would be pretty retro, but I would feel wrong playing anything on it that wasn’t old-school hip-hop. Carrying my own instrument would be a good idea, but I don’t own a strap for my acoustic guitar. Personal minstrels are out of the question. I would simply have to do without, and hope I that the stores I want to go to play Jefferson Airplane and not Miley Cyrus.

What if, to solve this problem, music was supernaturally played at appropriate times and places? For example, say you’re walking along and you see someone and know that she’s your soul mate. (Assuming you’re a guy.) Suddenly, music from Air Supply magically begins to play. Or every time you were coming back from some event where you had to wear a suit and had to run into Wal-Mart to get some eggs, “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Topp was heard in the immediate radius. It seems like some music is tied to specific sorts of places or situations. Just try to work out and listen to Jack Johnson.

If walking out in the woods just before dawn had a soundtrack, it would be Fleet Foxes self-titled debut album. The album brings up images of early morning sunlight coming through the trees. The four-piece band from Seattle plays a spectral brand of folk-rock, with a bit of a retro pseudo-60s sound. Don’t expect any blues jams or screaming guitar solos.

Fleet Foxes mixes different folk styles, blending American folk with British, Celtic, and Renaissance music. “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” actually sounds like a real folk song. The music on this record sounds like it was coming from a cave, or maybe a room in a castle. The reverb-heavy approach is a recipe for boredom in less talented bands, but fits perfectly with Fleet Foxes’ minimalist style. Lead singer Robin Pecknold’s voice is a bit odd, (He pronounces “staggering as “stagger-eein’”) but is not in the least annoying, and has a strange beauty. He’s backed up by a shimmering electric guitar, and some subdued drums. The drums and guitar on this record are probably the least obtrusive I’ve ever heard. They don’t try to upstage the vocals; instead, they support them. The songs aren’t highly technical, but they’re very tight. There is not a wasted note on the record. Fleet Foxes manages to have a lot of diversity on their record, from the rousing “Ragged Wood”, to the calming “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.” The record is full of good melodies and even better harmonies. The harmonies are so tight, it seems like one person is singing, and the reverb-laden backing chorus is the high point of this album. The album is essentially flawless.

This record is great for listening to early in the morning while drinking coffee, at night when the moon is full, or any other time that is full of atmosphere. It is haunting without being depressing If you like 60s folk rock like Simon and Garfunkel or Steeleye Span (Great Celtic rock band), or if you’re looking for something new and different, check out Fleet Foxes and their self-titled CD. Words cannot accurately describe it. It must be heard to be believed.

You can check out Fleet Foxes' Website and by some of there music here.
Currently Listening: Stockholm Syndrome, Derek Webb.

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