Fleet Foxes : Fleet Foxes

On the Fleet Foxes full-length debut cd, a back-porch purity coexists with an ethereal quality in almost equal proportions.  Indeed,  "White Winter Hymnal," like the appropriately titled opener, "Sun It Rises," showcases the unique vocal harmonies that are the Foxes stock in trade: their group singing takes the form of chorales rather than call and response or traditional harmonizing prevalent in blues, rock or pop. "He Doesn’t Know Why" sounds like nothing so much as a group of well-practiced choir boys while the sonorous sound of their voices on “Blue Ridge Mountains" is enrapturing.

Phil Ek, producer for Band of Horses and Built to Spill, applies a rustic production that’s a fitting contrast to the pristine clarity of the band’s sound. The chugging rhythm within "Ragged Wood” underscores Robin Pecknold’s soaring lead vocal with an earthy element without which the music would end up gossamer light and ultimately insubstantial. Delicate finger picking adds depth though, suggesting that, while this music comes naturally to Fleet Foxes, they are conscious of craft.

There is the definite sense the band is are consciously picking and choosing sounds. The meaning of a song like "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" resides as much in the billowing vocals as the lyrics. Meanwhile, nothing gets too pretty for its own good: during "Quiet Houses," for instance, closely packed harmonies cushioned on circular acoustic electric guitar patterns, soften and spread, then regroup in an exercise of poised dynamics.

As brief as the album is–clocking in at slightly less than forty minutes—its eleven tracks constitute a well-proportioned and intricate whole. As the flute of Gen Owen expertly emphasizes its ghostly melody,  "Your Protector" reveals so much more than first meets the ears. On "Meadowlark," the somber strains within the melody itself counterpoint sparkling acoustic guitar as effectively as the rhythmic strumming offsets that lead work. It is the cumulative effect of such small flourishes that ultimately distinguishes the work of the Fleet Foxes and makes this cd so compelling.

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