Album: Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Bella Union)

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The Independent Culture

Though not having quite the sun-kissed enchantment of their debut Sun Giant EP, Seattle alt.folk combo Fleet Foxes' full debut suggests they can follow the Arcade Fires and Mercury Revs to somewhere close to the mainstream. Their ambitions are signalled with the opener "Sun It Rises", where a hillbilly a cappella harmony intro acquires a blend of banjo and guitars that recalls odder corners of Brian Wilson's Smile – an influence sustained through the tympani and harmonies of "White Winter Hymnal", a blissful depiction of children in a snowscape.

Robin Pecknold's fallen-angel tenor has a haunting quality, often requiring little more than fingerstyle guitar settings but at times dressed in baroque-pop arrangements of the sort Van Dyke Parks might have dreamt up. There's a Midlake-esque air of rustic mystery to songs like "Ragged Wood" and the graceful death ballad "Oliver James", while the mood of bucolic yearning is gently sustained through the use of woodwind, harmonium and hammer dulcimer, and by the overall sense of connectedness with seasonal cycles. A companion piece to the recent Bon Iver debut.

Pick of the album:'Sun It Rises', 'White Winter Hymnal', 'Ragged Wood', 'Oliver James'