Thu, Jul 10, 2008 (midnight)
They look like hippies. They frequently get compared to Crosby, Stills & Nash. So why is Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut such a paradoxically intoxicating breath of fresh air?
The young Seattle quintet does intricate, pastoral harmonies as if they were the distant cousins of the Carter Family and CSN, raised with no knowledge of MTV, no access to the Internet and only a record player, vinyl albums and family lore from which to draw inspiration. Sounding a bit like My Morning Jacket’s Jim James joined by a choir of Appalachian angels, their naïve, wide-eyed take on ’60s mysticism and romanticism could be fuel for Ren-fair-inspired nightmares. Instead, it’s a bracing reminder of what made this kind of music revolutionary in the first place—a flashback to a time when technical abilities were still revered and when dark days made the quest for beauty that much more urgent.
If that sounds hokey on paper, it’s spellbinding on record, and literally breathtaking live. Musical chemistry can’t be faked, and it’s that electrifying inter-band energy that injects a hefty dose of giddiness and wonder into Fleet Foxes’ larger-than-life folk-rock. Far from peddling a retread of something that’s come before, Fleet Foxes put their unique pawprints on a genre that’s long been in need of an update.
The bottom line:****