Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut is a monument to the organic rock classicism that Neil Young and The Band helped pioneer: a sensibility steeped in rural folk traditions and strengthened with sophisticated melodies. Singer-guitarist Robin Pecknold supplies the Seattle band with its strong acoustic backbone and rock-ribbed songcraft, ensuring that Fleet Foxes deserves all the comparisons that follow.
The tight harmonies of the opening “Sun It Rises” and “White Winter Hymnal” evoke Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Brian Wilson circa “Smile” — rural reveries yearning for a pre-electric simplicity. But at the core of Fleet Foxes’ outre hippie sensibilities lies serious pop music: “Your Protector,” “Quiet Houses” and nearly all their neighbors are tightly structured compositions — no room for jamming here.
Phil Ek, who also produced Band of Horses’ first two discs, pours a thick layer of atmosphere over the set – ”Fleet Foxes” echoes like a storm drain. On a purely superficial level, this makes much of the disc virtually indistinguishable from Band of Horses and, in turn, My Morning Jacket. That’s good company to keep, but Pecknold differentiates himself and his band with strong choruses and concise melodies that cut through the haze, making Fleet Foxes far more than also-rans in the neo-traditionalist folk-rock sweepstakes.