Fleet Foxes: Sun Giant and Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop, 2008)
I don’t know that I can honestly call the Fleet Foxes’ debut a wintertime collection of songs. A few unabashedly wintry songs are included (check out “White Winter Hymnal” and “Blue Ridge Mountains” below), but they also sing songs of summer, songs of fall, and, most of all, songs of spring:
What a life I lead in the summer
What a life I lead in the spring
What a life I lead in the winded breeze
What a life I lead in the spring
the foxes sing in a cappella harmony as the needle hits the groove on side one of the Sun Giant EP. So how do I get away with calling this a featured winter album? It is exactly this full-on seasonal frenzy that made this music so appealing on those days when our house was entombed in snow. It gave me hope in the eventual arrival of other seasons. The rustic, pastoral details of the lyrics reminded me that the natural world brings life and color, not just an overbearing white coldness. And also maybe it is more simple: despite all the hype, I really just became acquainted with this pleasant folk phenomenon at the turn of the year. Since then, many of these songs have become the definitive soundtrack to my winter. My wife loves this music too, so many times we listen to it together. And as for the winter influence, it’s hard to deny the complete appeal of lines like, “Come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long / Spring is upon us, follow my only song,” in the middle of a cold February in the Wasatch Mountains.
I mentioned hype. This album has gotten a lot of it, from the time of its release last spring through to topping a lot of end-of-year lists. I ashamedly admit that I ignored this music partly because of that hype for quite awhile (although since then I have clearly humbled myself), and I’m not exactly sure what I will write at this point that hasn’t been written a hundred times already. I could mention that this music sounds natural and organic in every way. I could speak of fine folk-inspired songwriting and impeccably arranged vocal harmonies. I could describe their sound as the King Singers collaborating with the Shins. I don’t know for sure if these things have been said or not, because I’ve been trying to avoid the reviews so I can write this without inadvertently plagiarizing anyone. I’ll just end with this recommendation: if you like the song “I’ve Seen All Good People” by Yes, you’re probably going to love Fleet Foxes. If you like Crosby, Stills & Nash, John Denver, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Byrds, or Joni Mitchell, you’re probably going to love Fleet Foxes. If you like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Bobby McFerrin, or My Morning Jacket, you’re probably going to love Fleet Foxes. If you like music, you’re probably going to love Fleet Foxes.
[By the way, this is another album that sounds absolutely incredible on vinyl. I know I said that about Microcastle, too, but I promise I’m not going to say that about every album I ever talk about. The vinyl edition includes the superb Sun Giant EP as a separate record in a gatefold LP, which otherwise you would have to buy or download separately. You will want to get your hands on that EP because its songs, a couple of which are sampled above, are as good as or better than those on the full length.]