Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)

4.0 ★/8.0 - 8.9

A band that my parents and I can both enjoy comes around about once every other blue moon. My record shelf and their collection of washed up southern traditionalists have virtually not a single overlap, and whenever they threaten to cover the same ground, I tend to find myself disowning the artist in question. This explains my resistance to giving anything from the "alternative-country" movement a chance. I know there are elements of those artists that could ease me into the style, and I'm arguably already on it's outskirts, with Wilco and Calexico. But I'd rather not have to go through the devastation of having to bury my passion for a piece of music because it conflicts with my subconscious conditioning to be disgusted by anything that my parents can view as wholesome all-American entertainment, to go with their Grammy Awards and American Idol. Still, I've given into Fleet Foxes and feel very much torn. Something tells me that in the end, I'm gonna have to work extra hard to keep this a secret from my parents, because I simply can't stop listening to it and don't think I'd be able to if I tried. The splendidly gorgeous "Meadowlark", at the very least, is infinitely replay-able; the kind of song that, after hearing once, I couldn't stand not hearing at least once a day every day for the rest of my life. No matter how much I stare apathetically at their shudder inducing favorite artists (Crosby, Stills & Nash for example) and how much they embrace genres that I've never been too fond of, from gospel to southern rock, I can't ignore that Fleet Foxes have instilled these influences with enough originality and inventiveness to have delivered yet another nomination for this year's best debut album.

Like recent psych-folk misfits, Grizzly Bear, the key to Fleet Foxes' success is the way their organically flowing arrangements so masterfully maintain a balance between American backwoods influence and blue-eyed Psychadellia. Right from the start, album opener, "Red Squirrel" couldn't be more blatant about it's American grass roots intentions, yet the connected "Sun Rises" eventually reforms it's banjo-toting harmonies into a flurry of mind bending riffs. Check out the way the otherwise typical adult-alternative anthem, "Quiet Woods" bursts into an organ-led circus square dance for it's interludes. Or marvel at how effortlessly "He Doesn't Know Why" veers between a "my dear clementine"-esque ditty and a dramatic beach boys style build up. The best way to explain how good Fleet Foxes is, however, is to simply look at the way it's convinced me to open up. I saw O Brother Where Art Thou earlier today and for once, the Soggy Bottom Boys song that the film revolves around got my toe tapping. The other day I stole a listen to a Fleetwood Mac album from my mom's collection. And who knows, I may even let her listen to Fleet Foxes. After all, good music should make you want to share it, despite generational or cultural differences.

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