Fleeting Loveliness... Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London (May 29)
Red White And Blues’, that’s going to be the name of our next record,” confides Robin Pecknold, singer with US roots music’s fresh new shoots Fleet Foxes, affecting a gruff, all-American hero voice. He may be joking to win over the Limeys, but it’d be an apt enough title. His band’s haunted alt.country, dominated by his pure, grievous angel voice, is as Americana as a bald eagle eating cherry pie off the Statue Of Liberty’s breasts.
Starting with a medley of ‘Sun Giant’ (from their recent EP of the same name) and ‘Sun It Rises’ (from their self-titled new album), the hushed reverence with which their every chest-swelling note is absorbed is evidence of how quickly some have taken their spooky backwoods hymns to heart. At times you wonder, though, whether this sort of stuff is too easy now. Ethereal beardy-music has a ready-made audience of £50 Men ready to declare it the best thing since Grizzly Bear, and as a result it’s suffering from oversubscription. Fleet Foxes are a cut above, but lack the psych-pop complexity of, say, My Morning Jacket (although Pecknold is a vocal doppelgänger for the Jacket’s frontman Jim James). Despite darker notes like the eery ‘Winter White Hymnal’, whose sweet melody couches strange, oblique images of snow “soaked red as strawberries in summertime”, mainly they’re as unshowy, down-home and honest as their plaid shirts (well, they are from Seattle). Existing in a vague timeless space somewhere between the early-’70s and a folky, pre-industrial world of Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies, streams and squirrels, they’re almost too beautiful, neatly sidestepping the mess of modernity.
Of course, you’d only have such doubts hours later. As you stand, rapt, bathed in the chiming acoustic guitar and mandolin of ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’ or thrilling to Pecknold’s astounding a cappella holler on ‘Oliver James’, your head will be full of nothing but the desire for it not to stop. Bastards.