While music with a sense of the rustic American has been back on the menu of late (what with the rise of Band of Horses and Bon Iver) Seattle’s Fleet Foxes raise the game even further. Their music is a chiming approximation of the 60s’ best country rock exponents, from The Byrds to Buffalo Springfield, while also striking enough contemporary chords to potentially enjoy huge crossover appeal.
The Foxes’ biggest radio hit so far has been the quite gorgeous ‘White Winter Hymnal’, which managed to pull off the singular trick of getting Radio 1’s daytime DJs excited without sounding like yet another lame-brained Razorlight knock off. That it sounds not just like the best song Rufus Wainwright never released but better than most songs he has issued is deserved praise, while there are also hints of Devendra Banhart and The Beach Boys’ expansive, echoing production in there.
The rest of the Sub Pop/Bella Union signees’ self-titled debut album follows a similar path, although there’s a diversity to both their big, ploughing rockers and their most charming acoustic strumalongs that identifies singer and guitarist Robin Pecknold as a songwriter of real note. He doesn’t go for the easy pop hook so much as an expansive succession of multi-layered verses that build up a real sense of atmospheric and storytelling ability. It’s easy, in retrospect, to see why the Guardian called the record ‘a landmark in American music, an instant classic’ and commentators are lining up to compare them to the best their country has had to offer in the last half-century.
ABC, Glasgow, Sat 8 Nov