Fleet Foxes are a Seattle-based indie-folk/Baroque Pop sextet, originally built up around school friends Robin Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset. After releasing a self-titled debut EP in 2006, they rose to fame and much critical acclaim in 2008 with the EP Sun Giant and a full-length album (also self-titled). A new studio album called Helplessness Blues was released in 2011.
Their music features lots of complex instrumentation and vocal harmony, inviting many comparisons to The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, along with other acts from the Sixties and Seventies. The general atmosphere often evokes a somewhat Autumnal feel, similar to the likes of Nick Drake. Ultimately, however, the Fleet Foxes stand out it the music world as a very original act. The band's skilled musicianship and Pecknold's talent for songwriting have also attracted much praise by music fans and press alike.
The second album differs from the first in several ways. The instrumentation features violins and flutes (courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson) and fewer electric instruments. The songs are much more subject-based in their lyrics rather than being purely poetic. Many of them were inspired by the difficulties experienced in coming to terms with new-found success and creating the new record, as well as general reflections on ageing and finding one's place in the world.
After the second album and an exhausting tour, Pecknold made a quiet announcement in 2013 saying that the Foxes were on an indefinite hiatus. Pecknold started questioning if music was really his passion, wanting to maybe aim for a different career path. Then, in 2016 it was hinted that the Foxes were working on a new album and were back together. It was finally confirmed on Christmas day, and was released as Crack-Up in June 2017. Their fourth studio album, Shore, was released on September 22, 2020.
Current band members:
- Robin Pecknold
- Skyler Skjelset
- Casey Wescott
- Christian Wargo
- Morgan Henderson
- Fleet Foxes (2008)
- Helplessness Blues (2011)
- Crack-Up (2017)
- Shore (2020)
- Fleet Foxes (2006)
- Sun Giant (2008)
They provide examples of:
- Animated Music Video: Several.
- The video for Mykonos is a stop-motion narrative cartoon made mainly with cut-out triangles, animated to the rhythm of the song.
- White Winter Hymnal has a claymation video, reflecting on the themes of ageing and the passage of time.
- The video for The Shrine / An Argument is animated as well. And by god is it deranged! Like Mykonos it also appears to tell a story, but this time with an antelope in the leading role, accompanied by the denizens of your worst nightmares.
- Arcadia: The island of Innisfree is mentioned several times on Helplessness Blues. It is a place of harmony and consistency, in contrast to the uncertainty of the modern world.
- Badass Beard: Five out of six band members.
- Break Up Song: "The Shrine/ An Argument".
- Child Ballad: The 2 volume version of their debut includes a version of False Knight on the Road.
- Digital Piracy Is Okay: Robin Pecknold has come out in defense of downloading songs off the internet, saying this is how he acquired much of the music that inspired him.
- Driven to Suicide: A since-deleted interpretation of the "In the doorway, holding every letter that I wrote/In the driveway, pulling away, putting on your coat/In the ocean, washing off my name from your throat" passage of "The Shrine/An Argument" on a lyrics forum poignantly theorized that the narrator's heartbroken lover ends their own life by driving their car into the sea.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Their first music release, the self-titled EP, has a much more Beatles-influenced indie pop/rock sound compared to their later, much more well-known albums.
- Epic Rocking: While most of their music is more folk than rock, some of their longer songs like "Ragged Wood" (5:07) "The Plains / Bitter Dancer" (5:54), and "The Shrine / An Argument" (8:07) allow more space for soloing and improvisation. Several songs feature modulation (That Other Wiki entry), meaning they feature key changes and seem to have the structure of two songs mashed together.
- The lead single for Crack-Up, "Third of May / Ōdaigahara", tops "The Shrine / An Argument" in length, clocking in at 8:45. The title track (6:24) and "I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar" (6:25) also count.
- Gratuitous Japanese: Of a sort. "Ōdaigahara" ("大台ヶ原" in kanji) is named after a mountain in Japan's Daikō Mountain Range.
- Gratuitous Spanish: "Arroyo Seco" means "Dry Creek".
- Grief Song: "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song", possibly. Lines suggesting this include "Through the forest, down to your grave/Where the birds wait, and the tall grasses wave" and "Dear Shadow, alive and well, how can the body die?", as if the character is asking the spirit of the deceased why they left.
- Loudness War: Inexplicably, Crack-Up, at least in its CD edition, clips constantly and has a dynamic range of DR6. Not the kind of mastering you'd expect for a chilled-out Folk Rock band.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The line "Sunlight over me no matter what I do" from "The Shrine/An Argument" may evoke cheerful thoughts, but the way in which Robin sings it suggests raw anguish. It would almost seem that he's cursing the sun itself.
- Medley or Siamese Twin Songs: Tracks like "The Shrine / An Argument", "I Am All That I Need / I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar", and "Third of May / Ōdaigahara" could be considered examples of one or the other of these. They're each combined together as one track, but many times they feel more like two or more songs stuck together. "Cassius, -" and "- Naiads, Cassadies", on the other hand, is a more clear-cut example of Siamese Twin Songs, though actually, there aren't too many gaps on Crack-Up; the first complete fade to silence is after "Third of May / Ōdaigahara", twenty-seven minutes into the album (though the ending of "Kept Woman", eighteen and a half minutes in, comes fairly close).
- Modulation: As mentioned above, many songs change key signature at least once.
- Multiple Head Case: The giant two-headed horned serpent from the music video for The Shrine / An Argument. Appropriately enough, the two heads seem rather argumentative.
- Non-Appearing Title: Several, including "Blue Spotted Tail", "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and "White Winter Hymnal".
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Some very bizarre creatures appear in the music video for The Shrine / An Argument.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: At the end of "The Shrine / An Argument", what seems like a calm, folky outro is suddenly interrupted by a Free-Jazz-style segment featuring an atonal horn section. The jarring effect is presumably meant to represent the eponymous Argument in musical form.
- Progressive Rock: Crack-Up is frequently categorised as progressive folk, and Helplessness Blues has pretty substantial elements of the genre as well.
- Shout-Out: "Montezuma" contains a Title Drop with the words "Oh man, what I used to be / Montezuma to Tripoli". This is a reference to the Marine's Hymn", also known as "The Halls of Montezuma".
- Sim Sim Salabim: "Sim Sala Bim," obviously, though the song doesn't seem to specifically reference the stereotype, beyond the one line about a man reciting incantations.
- Singing Simlish: "Heard Them Stirring" consists entirely of "oohs" and "aahs".
- Single Stanza Song: "White Winter Hymnal."
- Snow Means Death: "White Winter Hymnal," possibly.
- Something Blues: "Helplessness Blues." Although it is not really a blues song.
- The Something Song: "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song."
- Title Drop: Most of their songs do not feature the title in any prominent way, assuming the title is even in the song at all. Often it is only a brief word or phrase that gives the song its name. Examples: "Blue Ridge Mountains", "Montezuma", "Sim Sala Bim" and "Helplessness Blues".
- To the Tune of: "Lorelai" reuses part of the melody of Bob Dylan's "4th Time Around" from Blonde on Blonde, likely as a way to pay tribute to one of their major influences.
- Uncommon Time:
- "Battery Kinzie" jumps around between 4/4, 6/4, and a bit of 2/4, 3/4, and 5/4.
- A significant portion of "The Shrine / An Argument" is in 13/4, or (4+3+3+3)/4.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "White Winter Hymnal" stands out. It appears to be about the passing of the seasons. Or maybe decapitation.