As the Fleet Foxes prepare to cast their spell over our shores next month, Glenn Gibson attempts to run through their top ten tracks.
If there is one thing we all love here at Planet Slop, it’s a good vocal harmony. Well this writer does anyway! From The Beach Boys to The Temptations via Abba and CSNY, the vocally harmony has been a constant in musical history.
Although there have been plenty of groups across the audio atlas that have graced us with their tones, there are few in modern times that can hold a candle to Seattle’s finest indie folk brethren; Fleet Foxes.
Rising from a near six year hibernation, this year saw the group initially tease fans with their return as they released the near nine minute masterpiece Third of May/ Ōdaigahara in spring. The epic piece is flooded with rich keys and stings but what shines brightest of all is the resurgence of the groups harmonies.
That initial glimpse of Fleet Foxes long return was merely a taster of the main course that arrived this summer in the form of their exceptional third album, Crack-Up.
Flicking the on switch from where Helplessness Blues was turned off nearly six years earlier, Crack-Up finds Fleet Foxes at their most experimental best, with a distinct change to the group’s path as they grow from their comfort zone into something truly exceptional.
To top all of this off, us lucky so and so’s will be graced with their presence across the country as they bring their world tour to venues across the country, including a date at Manchester Apollo on November 23rd.
In readiness of their arrival, we thought it best to try and navigate our way through the Fleet Foxes back catalogue and somehow complete the unenviable task of making a Top Ten from possible the greatest vocal group of our generation. Wish us luck and let us know what your top tracks are if we’ve missed any.
10 – Cassius,-
If there is one track that signifies the development of Fleet Foxes work and that provides hope to their longevity, its Cassisus,- from their newest LP. A bleak glare at the military police state of his home land, Robin Pecknold and his brothers explore Krautrock, Bedouin and even Native American tones to paint this emotive ode.
9 – Montezuma
Perhaps the most reflective song the group has recorded to date, the opener to Helplessness Blues finds delicate guitars hover over deep underlying questions as the singer looks at his life and what is to come. Wistful, brooding at times, its personal qualities are the first blow to your emotions as the album opens the flood gates.
8 – Battery Kinzie
The powder keg of upbeat rambler Battery Kinzie, marks a distinctive change to the course of the groups sophomore album but lyrically it’s a dark macabre journey that not many would wish to be on we are sure.
7 – Sun It Rises
A song essentially about waking up in the morning, Sun It Rises serves as the sonic alarm clock to many a Fleet Foxes fan as it opens their eponymous debut. Beautiful in every way shape and form, this is the first taster of the powers the five piece have at their disposal.
6 – Oliver James
If you want to hear Pecknold’s vocals at their most brutal best, you would be hard pressed to find a better track then the gut punching Oliver James. By the time the last chorus rings out, you wish you could wrap a warm blanket round Messer James as you stand in awe of what you just heard. In a word – stunning.
5 – Third of May/ Ōdaigahara
The importance of this track within the life of Fleet Foxes should not be underestimated not its majesty unappreciated. A song truly worthy of the much over used description of epic. The autobiographical piece takes a long hard look at the group, its members and the journey they have come on to where they are today.
4 – Blue Ridge Mountains
The penultimate track from their debut finds Fleet Foxes in a sprightly mood as keys, percussion and harmonies intertwine to create a web of emotive bliss. If ever there is a chance to go to the Blue Ridge Mountains, over near Tennessee, we are there!
3 – Ragged Wood
The joyous tones of Skye Skjelsets guitar combine with the shuffling beats of Nicholas Peterson to provide the solid backbone on which this exceptional track is made. With Pecknold leading the beautiful interchanging harmonies of the group, it’s easy to see why this became a firm fan favourite.
2 – Helplessness Blues
The title track to the Fleet Foxes sophomore album could be interpreted as a reflection upon the numerous questions that Pecknold asks the listener throughout the record as he takes stock on his life’s work to date. His lyrical excellence as he appreciates life and all its wonder is sound tracked by some of the finest harmonies you will hear.
1 – White Winter Hymnal
We couldn’t do this list without having a place for White Winter Hymnal. This is the first true taster of what Fleet Foxes are about. With their angelic voices able to draw the picturesque and slightly sinister scene in their first single, you are hooked as they circle around its beautiful rhythms.
Fleet Foxes play the Manchester Apollo on November 23rd.