First Collection 2006-2009

by: Fleet Foxes

When Seattle's Fleet Foxes entered the musical conversation in 2008, their eponymous Sub Pop debut suddenly became a ubiquitous feature of the indie landscape. Its freshness and beauty were clearly something special and introduced the vision of talented frontman Robin Pecknold. Arriving at the vanguard of indie folk's big boom, the band's exultant harmonies, elegant arrangements, and winsome '60s-indebted aesthetic set them apart from their whistling, banjo-wielding contemporaries. They promptly established, then spent the next five years rutting out, the genre's tired template. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of their first Sub Pop release, this excellent four-disc collection compiles the sum of Fleet Foxes' early output from their 2006 formation to the smattering of B-sides and rarities that followed their debut. Appearing just one year after 2017's excellent but exceedingly complex Crack-Up LP, revisiting this material reveals the rare joy of those first recordings and what made songs like "Ragged Wood," "Quiet Houses," and "Sun Giant" so appealing. Pecknold's thematic mix of glowing optimism, empathetic love, and earthy enchantment felt genuine and his devotion to the autumnal tones of late-'60s classics like the Zombies' Odessey & Oracle and Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief simply drew more attention to the high quality of his own work. Bookending their two Sub Pop releases -- the Sun Giant EP and the Fleet Foxes LP, both released in 2008 -- are a very rare self-released 2006 EP and a collection of demos and other oddments. The former is notable for its more conventional indie rock tone and sounds very much like Pecknold finding his creative footing, which he seems to have done by its deeply harmonic final track, "Icicle Tusk." This EP also introduces Fleet Foxes' first pairing with influential Seattle producer Phil Ek (the Shins, Built to Spill) who would go on to helm their first two LPs and mix their third. The latter disc offers a unique look at Pecknold's folk influences from both sides of the Atlantic with the British traditional classic "False Knight on the Road" and the American murder ballad, "Silver Dagger." While both of those tracks saw limited release as B-sides, the fascinating basement demos for "Ragged Wood," "He Doesn't Know Why," and "English House" offer previously unheard sketches of those songs and are some of the highlights of this set. Fleet Foxes' longtime fans will likely have heard the bulk of this excellent set, but the rare cuts, early EP, and lovingly designed packaging with its unique photos and liner notes make it essential. ~ Timothy Monger

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