Fleet Foxes

Idyllic, medieval folk rock from the Evergreen State.

Fleet Foxes band photo

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Every post on this site is meant to be a constantly evolving diary of my musical views. Therefore, any and all posts should be considered incomplete at any given time.

I was early to the Fleet Foxes thing. One morning in early 2008, I was running errands in Silverdale, Washington, when I turned on a local radio station and heard what sounded like some ancient, elvish chant crooning from my speakers. I was captivated. I kind of thought it was My Morning Jacket at first, but though it sounded like them in a way, it was also just way too weird. Turns out, that song was “Sun Giant”. 

The rest is history. The Sun Giant EP and their self-titled LP were both pretty big on the indie scene that year, and Helplessness Blues in 2011 saw them expanding the sonic palette in some fascinating ways. 

But it’s their last two LP’s that have demonstrated that this is a band above other bands. 

ALBUMS

Fleet Foxes self-titled LP album cover

Fleet Foxes

Release Year: 2008
My Rating: A+


Post-postmodern indie? Or just straight up medieval in the best sense? This one took a unique vision to achieve, and it's breathtaking just how massive folk music becomes in the hands of Robin Pecknold and company. A modern classic to be sure, but who needs modernity when you can take the best musical traditions of the past and formulate such enchanting sounds? I'll never forget being a part of "Ragged Wood" at the Ryman in 2010, pounding the wooden pews in the mother church of country music. I thought we were going to bring the house down. Such is the power of Fleet Foxes' debut LP, preternatural indie folk beyond pretense.

HIGHLIGHTS: "White Winter Hymnal", "Ragged Wood", "Quiet Houses", "Your Protector", "Blue Ridge Mountains"

Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues album cover

Helplessness Blues

Release Year: 2011
My Rating: A-


A bit of a sophomore slump for me (I know, that's heresy to some), but there's no denying it's still a great record. There are about 6 or 7 absolutely phenomenal songs here, but the experimentation just doesn't quite work like it will on later albums. Not quite a big leap forward, but nowhere near a regression.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Montezuma", "Bedouin Dress", "Sim Sala Bim", "Battery Kenzie", "Helplessness Blues", "Someone You'd Admire"

Fleet Foxes Crack-Up album cover

Crack-Up

Release Year: 2017
My Rating: A+


Just such a fascinating and wonderful record. Love that Pecknold went fully experimental on this one, he's the type of artist that can pull that off without becoming self-indulgent. Just a lot of really beautiful interconnected music here. This is one of those records that feels fathomless in the best possible way. For the life of me, the soundscapes here are what are truly front and center, and demonstrate the ever-evolving genius of Pecknold.

HIGHLIGHTS: "I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar", "Third of May / Ōdaigahara", "Fool's Errand", "I Should See Memphis"

Fleet Foxes Shore album cover

Shore

Release Year: 2020
My Rating: A+


Robin Pecknold makes transcendent, even numinous, folk rock. It's about as simple as that.

While Crack-Up saw the band expanding their sound in some fascinating experimental directions, this one consolidates those gains and applies them to pure pop songcraft. The results are glorious, magnificent, definitive proof that Robin Pecknold is one of the best songsmiths of his generation.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Sunblind", "Can I Believe You", "Featherweight", "A Long Way Past The Past", "Maestranza"

OTHER RELEASES

The Fleet Foxes EP cover

The Fleet Foxes EP

Release Year: 2006
My Rating: C+


Honestly I'm surprised Fleet Foxes included these recordings in their First Collection compilation. It ain't bad, but it AIN'T the sound that made Fleet Foxes famous. Just run of the mill indie rock with a lounge-feel, really. Nothing of that medieval mystery that defines their main work. For me, Sun Giant was the beginning.

HIGHLIGHTS: none

Fleet Foxes Sun Giant EP cover

Sun Giant EP

Release Year: 2008
My Rating: A+


What a gem. I remember hearing the first 2 songs on the radio in Washington state back in 2008, and wondering "What is this strange new MMJ tune?" Next thing you know, Fleet Foxes are a BIG DEAL (and deservedly so).

HIGHLIGHTS: "Drops In The River", "Mykonos"

Fleet Foxes A Very Lonely Solstice album cover

A Very Lonely Solstice

Release Year: 2021
My Rating: B


A nice intimate solo set from Robin. Not particularly special, but it's nice.

HIGHLIGHTS: "In the Morning", "Silver Dagger"

MISCELLANEOUS / RELATED

  • “Isles” (2008): Pleasant Robin solo stuff.
  • “False Knight On The Road” (2009): Nice solo Robin outtake from the early era. This one has a lazy, pensive feel to it, just a quiet sunny day.
  • “Silver Dagger” (2009): Another lovely solo Robin number, escapism on full blast.
  • “White Lace Regretfully” (2018): Seems to be an incomplete demo that’s cut short, but pretty enough!
  • “Hot Air (Basement Sketch)”: Interesting little ambient instrumental piece.
  • “Derwentwater Stones” (2011): This is an old solo Robin track, released under the name White Antelope, that seems to have evolved into “Jara” from Shore.
  • “I’m Losing Myself” (2011): Feels kinda like the softer, more mystical Simon & Garfunkel tunes. Also, heavy Kings of Convenience vibes.
  • “Where Is My Wild Rose” (2011): For anyone else, this would be a Top 10 track. For Robin Pecknold, it’s an outtake. Lovely lil’ folk tune.

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BOKY RATINGS GUIDE

Here’s my totally scientific method for grading albums. I’m sure you’ll find it revolutionary:

  • A+: CLASSIC album – I revere this bad boy.
  • A: GREAT album – a repeat listener from start to finish.
  • B: GOOD album – I’ll probably listen again at some point.
  • C: MEH album – not awful, but I have no desire to listen again.
  • D: BAD album – not sure why anyone would listen to this.
  • F: TRULY AWFUL album – monumentally bad and offense against music.

Gradations between letters (A-/B+/B-/C+) simply indicate it’s somwhere between the two letters.