What was that goddamn noise? Something had been in my ear for a few weeks. I had my suspicions, so I paid a visit to my favorite review aggregator. Just as I suspected — it was BUZZ. It was buzz, and not only was it coming from Seattle, it was coming from the very same label that has created quite a few buzz bands in its time.
Weighing in with a score of 86 at metacritic, the highest aggregate score this side of fellow critical faves Shearwater, itâ€™s Fleet Foxes with their debut full length, self-titled album on Sub Pop.
When our very own Taylor Long reviewed the bandâ€™s Sun Giant EP for Popdose back in April, she described the band as â€œinteresting.â€ And so they are, just not to me. Iâ€™m not saying that this is a bad album, or participating in the critical backlash that Taylor predicted. When I hear good word-of-mouth about a band, Iâ€™m usually excited, and looking forward to a positive listening experience. This album, this sound, just didnâ€™t do much for me. Itâ€™s pleasant enough, with its pastoral images and gentle sound, but thatâ€™s where it ends.
A lot of big names have been used in the same sentence as Fleet Foxes lately. One of them is the Beach Boys, and if you listen to â€œWhite Winter Hymnal,â€ you will agree that there is some basis for that. Thereâ€™s also been talk about Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and sure enough â€œQuiet Housesâ€ gives you some of that sound. The bandâ€™s main influence though, as characterized by the echo-drenched vocals is My Morning Jacket. I will be the first to admit that Iâ€™ve never quite gotten as much out of that band as a lot of my friends and colleagues do. The main factor in my failure to appreciate MMJ is the one concept that Fleet Foxes most assimilated: that deep echo on the vocals. It kills the whole thing for me. These harmonies could be contenders. Why bury them so deeply in the pit? I donâ€™t see this as producer Phil Ekâ€™s idea. This is clearly the bandâ€™s choice. Itâ€™s a valid one I suppose, it just wouldnâ€™t be mine.
Fleet Foxes bring to the table youth, interesting songwriting by lead singer Robin Pecknold, instrument choices that include mandolins, dulcimers and kotos in addition to the requisite guitars and keyboards, and exemplary vocal harmonies. A lot of people like this album, so Iâ€™m hesitant to tell you that itâ€™s not worth your time. I hope the tracks that Iâ€™ve provided here will give you some idea of what Fleet Foxes are all about, and then you can decide for yourself. I look forward to your comments. You tell me, is the buzz warranted?