[Today: Two of the finest debut albums in recent memory…]
I’d rather not distract myself with biographical details when it comes to Fleet Foxes. Music this majestic and otherworldly should remain ungrounded by such trivialities as the lead singer’s name (no idea), the band’s home town (who cares?), and their musical influences (impossible to say). Their recently released debut is an album of elemental beauty – each song an incantation that works its magic through repeated listens. “Wanderers this morning came by/Where do they go, graceful in the morning light?” It looks like Wordsworth on the page, and sounds positively angelic on the hi-fi. This is music for the white light of your death tunnel, and song titles like ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ ‘Ragged Wood’ and ‘White Winter Hymnal’ reflect the medieval poetry at the heart of Fleet Foxes.
The story of Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) is oft-told and worth revisiting: guy loses girlfriend, sees his band split up, and cloisters himself away in a cabin in Wisconsin in the dead of winter. He kills his food, chops his firewood, and makes an album of stunning beauty with just his voice, a guitar, and a few effects pedals. Isolated, mournful, and ghostly, For Emma, Forever Ago is beyond classification and genre. Like Fleet Foxes, it lives at the horizon of music, where vast cacophonies of influences and sounds come together through a single artist, defying easy placement in any one bin at the record store. Pity the fool who has to categorize either of these albums, because it can’t be done.
Listen: Blue Ridge Mountains [Fleet Foxes]
Listen: Flume [Bon Iver]