Tuesday, August 31, 2010

tuesday's trinkets & treasures: : The Fleet Foxes

Hello again ^_^

So as an added part of the series, I thought I would go with Tuesday. :) It's a pretty chill day for light blogging, as I have so much homework and so many classes to take care of. Tuesday's topics will cover little things that i have fallen in love with, from songs to items of clothing to jewelry to movies to secret places in the park... the list could go on, but I will stop it for now...

My first treasure is of course one of my favorite bands: The Fleet Foxes.

They are coming out with a new album soon, but as you may know, their prior album (self-titled) was a brilliant masterpiece in indie/folk music bliss!!!

The album is an album's album. It's not a bunch of randomly completed songs thrown onto a disc that happened to be released simultaneously: it is a work of art composed from start to finish with the "story" in mind. Perhaps not in the same realm as say, The Wall (a la Pink Floyd), but it still is a comprehensive work, not meant to be taken individually (though the songs are very much still enjoyable in that sense too :)

Sun it rises: from the first moments of this album, the tone is set; it is going to be a folksy, down-to-earth and earthy set of tunes. "Red squirrel in the morning..." The simple banjo & acoustic guitar riffs are reminiscent of family time sitting around a fire while out camping, and the vocals that begin soon enough after are so ethereal that you wonder if you are in heaven -- the down-to-earth quality is silmutaneously held and lost. The electric guitar added in later makes it apparent that the music is modern, without killing the vibe or jarring the simple tune. A great way to start the piece.

White winter hymnal: if you are familiar with this song, you have probably seen the video, which i don't think does this song justice! Starting with the simple tune carried by one voice, soon it turns into the harmonious bliss of three voices. The tambourine segues into the simple tune that is reminiscent of our best winter days, "I was following the pack all swallowed in their coats with scarves of red tied round their throats to keep their little heads from falling in the snow. And I turned round and there you go. And Michael, you would fall and turn the white snow red as strawberries in summertime." It's a simple tune, yet the timpani makes it an adventure waiting to be had - it evokes the images of white snow-covered hills just waiting to be trampled through. The complex harmonies and a cappella voices make it a work truly interesting to the ear without being convoluted, and its simplicity is to be lauded.

Ragged Wood: I really am never going to get away from their harmonies. They ALWAYS blow me away. This song sounds most like a classic folk song to me. The bass riff is simple yet holds a good beat, the percussion is simple and the snare doesn't overpower anything else, and the guitar complements the bass and vocals perfectly. The folksy nature of this song always makes me think of cool fall breezes on the ocean. And deciduous trees. The guitar riff that precedes the bridge the song is so playful, it makes me just want to dance through fall leaves up at my favorite retreat house in Ligonier. When it changes to 6/8 time, it brilliantly waltzes in and out of my consciousness, making it a background thought, which more helps me appreciate the next song...

Tiger mountain peasant song: This song starts in a 6/8 lilt which speaks to the end of Ragged Wood, but seems almost like a happy requiem with the lyrics to "how can the body die?" It's a simple acoustic guitar that accompanies this tune from beginning to end. There are no layers to hide the emotion held in the vocals - they half saunter in a happy tune, half gimp at the sadness in the lyrics.

Quiet Houses: This song, in contrast with the blanched simplicity of the music in the prior song, bears an upbeat melody, and the harmonies presented never cease to fail my whimsical heart. "Lay me down; Don't give in; come to me; lay me down." This song is not about the lyrics but about what the notes can speak to your heart. It speaks as a love song, but not in the typical oozy sense -- it speaks as friends and lovers, like in a park where lines blur between the two, and the grass is a brownish green and the sky a faded blue; like the slightly muted color film from 1-9-7-0, with rounded corners on the bent old photo, and two friends sitting on a blanket at the end of the day, finding they love more than they can say.

He doesn't know why: The strident voices and piano chords open this song, written to what seems a dear old friend or brother. The piano chords are simple throughout the song, the drumbeats adding a sense of drama and regiment. This song is a story, from beginning to end, a letter to a loved one trying to recommend a return to the "original mind." At a major statement, "There's nothing I can do. There's nothing I can say," the music stops all but strict beats from the drums. Not until repeating this statement multiple times do the backup harmony vocals return to have a voice like angels, as if it's truly the end... ... ... but wait! It's not! After a few seconds of silence, a piano starts back up, playing pentatonic chords in a fashion that speaks like the brother's reconciliation, ending on a pleasing and resolved chord.

Heard them stirring: As always, the dear Fleet Foxes begin with a little vocal harmony, then turning to acoustic guitar and electric keys to set the rhythm with a tom drum faithfully hitting every half note beat. No real lyrics ever take place in this song: it is a focus on the musicality of the voices in junction with the instrumentation. A stringed instrument (i believe a mandolin) sounds off at about 1 minute, and adds the flair of an Oriental theme that was not present prior in the album. Finally, it climaxes as a gong is heard, the electric guitar makes its voice heard, and it gently fades out into...

Your protector: this song was the first I heard on this album, and is correspondingly, my favorite. Beginning with a duet of flutes whispering a melancholy melody, this song is practically a picture of the medieval romance. The vocals are added on top, eerie and lamenting, whilst also longingly imploring. The tambourine adds a beat more typical to dance, and the song gently turns to hopeful. The full instrumentation changes the melodic line to cut time, and becomes a full-on jig, proclaiming "as you lay to die beside me, baby on the morning that you came, would you wait for me? the other one would wait for me" It has both a distressed lyric and a hopeful tune that tells me it is of war and truly of death. The song then drastically changes: though still in the cut time that sounds like a jig, it has become dreadfully frightening. They sing in a frightening harmony, "you run with the devil," as if to say that there is no possibly hope of life in a war-torn soldier's heart: he wishes to love and misses his lover, but is torn by the cause of war and fealty to country. The guitar and banjo reek of a western folk song, but it soon changes to a drum and tambourine duet with the vocals blaring that his lover should, "tell your brother to be good; tell your sister not to go; tell your mother not to wait; tell your father i was good." the guitar only making choice statements, until the whole band again returns to proclaim the same chorus as before - the hopeful melody that hopes, indeed, that this poor soldier will get to see his beauty again, "as you lay to die beside me, baby on the morning that you came, would you wait for me? the other one would wait for me..."

Meadowlark: A simple acoustic guitar plays simple arpeggios throughout this song - the vocals a soliloquy over the top of the humble accompaniment. The lyrics, dedicated to a loved one, the "meadowlark" and "hummingbird," evoke images of beautiful songbirds and birds of beauty. He asks this meadowlark to "sing to me," and after, the group adds an accordion to the mix along with a full harmony arrangement to mimic the song of the birds. I envision a farm on a hill, covered in a golden brown thistle, with trees turned all red and golden and brown, birds hopping to and fro...

Blue ridge mountains: some simple guitar chords open the song, with the full harmony capabilities soaring, it would seem, up to the clouds, "lie down with me my dear; under stormy night; tell nobody." This part is as if it is spoken from the perspective of the lover (the"brother" spoken of later ) -- a love found and hidden. As if to jar out a waking dream, a hammered dulcimer springs out a glorious melody, still evoking the folk theme, yet changing the perspective from lover to the brother who is wondering "my brother, where do you intend to go tonight?" the guitar speeds up, opening to a different monologue. The brother is entreating his sibling to spend time with him so that "no one gets worried," and tells him "not to be careless, i'm sure it'll be fine," and finishes by telling him that "i love you, oh brother of mine." The dulcimer evokes autumn better than any other intstrument I know, and this song tells the story of change from fall to winter, as a love story, as it tells the story of a first snow. The deliberate drum beats at the prelude to the climax make the best segue into the vocal harmonies on top of the dulcimer on top of the guitar on top of the piano. The lover tells his brother how, "in the quivering forest where the shivering dog rests, our good grandfather built a wooden nest. And the river got frozen, and the hole got snowed in. And a yellow moon glowed bright 'til the morning light." To end the song rather abruptly, the accompaniment disappears, and the lover reveals his intentions, "even if [she] doesn't mind."

Oliver james: an easy guitar riff and a simple "ooh" open this song, sung almost completely a cappella for the first 43 seconds. A song of a woman finding a child in a cradle on the shore of a river, it speaks the story more through the simple folk tune than accompaniment. His name is "Oliver James," who was "washed in the rain," but "no longer." A story of the beginning of a family, a mother's love for her child, even if adopted. She remembers "when [she] rehearsed the actions of an innocent and anxious mother full of anxious love." The simple guitar speaks to the simplicity of family life, and speaks to the mother's gracious love for her new son, regardless of origins. But when she realizes it was "love for the one you know more," means that it is only for a memory, the phrase becomes "Oliver James, washed in the rain, [is] no longer," and ends in the solitary voices, singing a requiem that should have been a gloria.


So these are honestly just my humble opinions, but if anything, i hope this provokes you to listen to the album (please BUY the album, its FANTASTIC and the Fleet Foxes are BRILLIANT). They are some of my favorite songs for walking around in the autumn months, and always tear at my heartstrings while simultaneously bringing a smile to my face. The use of a variety of instruments, a true knowledge of music and what musicality really means makes the Fleet Foxes a joy to listen to to and a true pleasure for the ears.


Rosemary said...

Will check them out. :)

Also, I was thinking of posting about little things I loved on Tuesdays on MY blog ... you totally stole my idea! Psychically! Somehow! :-P

Pittsburgh Perambulations said...

GREAT review, girl! I haven't pulled this album out in awhile now, and I think it's time to revisit it before the new release!