The reason Fleet Foxes have been drawing such plaudits for their album must be at least partly down to its sleeve, which looks much like popular cartoon quiz Where’s Wally? set in the Middle Ages. Bottom left: is that a woman comforting a pig? It can’t be entirely down to the music, because while their ‘White Winter Hymnal’ sometimes brushes the chilly, ageless beauty of an ammonite Beach Boys, it’s also got a touch of the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Yawn. GHThere was a moment, as 2007 turned into 2008, when fans of The Little Ones’ 2007-released, 9/10-scoring mini-album ‘Sing Song’ began to despair. News began to leak of the band’s release from their contract with EMI: small beans for the label which boasts Coldplay, The Verve and Robbie Williams among their roster, yet a sign the well-publicised troubles of the UK’s flagship major were beginning to show their effects. Even if you had no interest in such industry tattle, the nubbed career of a new band who showed such early promise was depressing enough. What now for the five Californians with the songs that embodied the very word ‘yummy’?
Well, props are due to Heavenly Recordings, who originally signed the band and stuck with them despite the absence of major-label funding and saved The Little Ones’ debut proper from gathering dust in EMI’s vault. Yet the band themselves deserve the lion’s share of credit. Over 11 songs they’ve assembled an ensemble of tunes so melodic, catchy and bright you imagine the legendary UK indie’s hand was forced into pressing up copies the moment they heard it. You know that TV footage of baby birds eating chewed-up worms from their mothers’ mouths? Or doe-eyed seals skidding across the Antarctic ice? ‘Morning Tide’ is so fabulously cute it’s like viewing all of the above through a fog of candy floss.
There’s little deviation from the pop blueprint laid out so scrumptiously on their first outing, and – as deeply in thrall to melody as they obviously are – you imagine The Little Ones would struggle to write a song that didn’t sound akin to the sun sparking. Not that this matters one jot; from the title tune, to previous single ‘Ordinary Song’, to album highlight ‘All Your Modern Boxes’, the band forage through every trick ever deployed in the history of indie-pop to incite smiling. There’s Lemonheads-indebted handclaps throughout; the reverb-drenched jangle of Teenage Fanclub; even wry, wordy Guided By Voices-style outbursts, courtesy of singer and songwriter Ed Reyes. ‘Morning Tide’ is a collection of songs that take the word ‘pop’ in ‘pop music’ literally, bursting with effervescence and joy. That’s not all; the record’s very release is evidence that sometimes the good can arise from the metaphorical swamp of shit.