After my rather public battle with Fleet Foxes, I'm a little uncomfortable that this is the first of their albums I've featured on this blog. Their self-titled album is one of my staples - I adore it, but it took me a while to get there. I have only listened to this album once, from start to finish, somewhere above the Northern Pacific. At face value, it's a bit angsty and existenitial and I'm not sure I've seen the growth from their first album, but the quality of songwriting and musicianship remains high. I don't yet own this album - but I will buy it.
I was immediately struck by 'Bedouin Dress' - it incorporates some lovely Americana guitar work; the kind of sound I can't get enough of at the moment. I do not, however, like the mid eastern influence (I don't even know what the instrument is, but, as is becoming my new theme, it's too obvious and borders on annoying.) The obviousness does carry somewhat throughout the album - the melodramatic introduction to 'The Plains / Bitter Dancer' was too much for this jetleg-addled brain. Thankfully, the song mellows into something more mature; the classic layered harmonies, some really interesting and quite striking minor chords, leading into an upbeat bridge. At nearly 6 minutes, this song had the potential to be a bit painful, but despite the overbearing intro, they've managed not to take it too far.
The title track features some bordering-on-contrived lyrics, but in classic FF style, they are somehow balanced out by layered guitars into another very good song. I think the start of this track illustrates FF at their best - their distinct sound, comprised of elaborate guitars and unique vocals. They bring the eastern sound back in the bridge of this song though, and while it is objectively pretty good, part of me wishes they'd left the song at 3 minutes. In contrast, the beginning of 'The Shrine / An Argument' sounds to me like FF as we haven't yet really heard them; there's a real and unmistakable rock influence in there. And it's good. I worried that this 8 minute odessy of a song might weary me, but (as I guess the title would imply) it's broken into two quite distinct and manageable parts. Unfortunately the early, quite surprising rock part is, in my opinion, undermined by the caucophony that commences three quarters of the way through the track, and for which I have little patience this morning.
At first listen, there's no 'White Winter Hymnal' equivalent on this album - the kind of haunting striking song that stays with you long after you've finished listening. That said, I openly acknowledge that I would have said the same thing about the first album after first listen (and for about a year thereafter.) But I love the opening of 'Battery Kinzie', loud, thumping pianos a striking contrast to the dramatic guitar of the previous track. It's a short (under 3 minutes) snappy little track, non-confrontational, perfectly balanced. I also love 'Lorelai' - a beautiful exposition of that perfect, pure voice in a simple format. The same could be said of the following track, 'Someone You'd Admire' - I fell for this track immediately. Likewise the acoustic guitar, disarming vocals, and pretty lyrics of 'Blue Spotted Tail' had me at hello. I am, apparently, a sucker for simplicity, and this track nails it in such a pretty way.
Because I am jetlagged, sleep deprived, and lazy, I suspect I have fallen for the easiest, most accessible songs on this album first. But given my track record with this band, I figure that's not a bad start.
Disclaimer: given my slow burning history with Fleet Foxes, I reserve my right to change my view of this album when I've had a chance to listen to it more than once...