This past week, Seattle indie-folk natives, Fleet Foxes, released an enormous box set containing b-sides and rarities as well as a reissue of their first self-titled EP. The reissue touches on pieces of the band’s early career and highlights their rapid success. The collection also includes a 32-page booklet with photographs and handwritten liner notes, as well as a page dedicated to early tour posters.
Fleet Foxes are an interesting case study into how genres can be redefined. They have pioneered modern folk with a baroque pop twist, accompanied with perfect harmonies and complex, fingerpicking acoustic patterns. However, The Foxes can directly trace their roots and inspirations back to the folk superstars of the sixties and early seventies.
Included with the box set is a reissue of the bands first self-titled EP.
Recorded in 2006, The Fleet Foxes EP embodies elements of the bands early sound, with the Beach Boys Pet Sounds conjuring direct sonic ties.
The EP is a great starting point to map out the sound that The Fleet Foxes have continued to redefine. In looking at the first collection’s full scope, listeners can begin to understand the choices made to craft what became the bands claim to fame. Tracks on the EP like “In The Hot Rays” feature grooveable dance drum riffs with a comfortable guitar lock that repeats throughout. Under the surface of the song, a baroque style harpsichord can be heard. Additional harmonies from the band also underlay the track, giving it a second set of depth.
Because Fleet Foxes was still very young at this point, the lyrical sides of some tracks aren’t as developed as the tracks heard on the full-length LP. Songs like “Textbook Love” reflect lead singer Robin Pecknold’s high school naivety with slightly cliche lines: “I was in the classroom after school/Working on the chalkboard once again/You were in your uniform standing by the door/When I saw you, saw you there” and “I started to wear my dad’s cologne/Started combing my hair to the side/Anything that I could do Just to keep your attention on me”.
In looking at the Foxes’ career thus far, the early songs fill the much-needed void of insight into just how a band can rework their sound over periods of time. This EP was previously only available via a rip on YouTube or one of the fifty copies sold by the band early on in their career. Its availability now demonstrates the band’s growth.
Other elements that stand out via the box set are the B-Sides and rarities. After an extensive tour backing their third full-length album, Pecknold exiled himself in his New York makeshift studio, remastering and pulling together tracks that he found fit to include with the First Collection Box Set. Included on the B-Sides is an emotional cover of Joan Baez’s “Silver Dagger,” in which Pecknold demonstrates his incredible dynamic vocal range. Early versions of hits like “Ragged Wood” and “English Houses” are also included.
Since the albums of the first collection, Fleet Foxes have released two more full-length LP’s. After an eight-year hiatus, their most recent, Crack Up, broke all of the barriers the band had created for themselves and landed them in the global spotlight.
There is no new music on the radar thus far, but Pecknold has assured fans that they can expect a fourth full-length album in the near future.
Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Zack Cohen at Zachary.W.Cohen@colorado.edu.