Fleet Foxes, "Fleet Foxes"
Fleet Foxes is what would have happened if The Beach Boys had abandoned surf music after their first album, bought a shack in the Appalachian Mountains and lived and recorded there for the rest of their days.
The Seattle band's self-titled debut is a carefully arranged, beautifully cohesive study in folk, pop and lonely songwriting, spanning jangly drums on "Ragged Wood" to drifty odes on "Oliver James."
There has been a slow-moving wave of new folk records in the past three or so years, all of varying quality, often with better production than they'll take credit for. Fleet Foxes takes full advantage of its Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Built to Spill) engineering and Sub Pop backing, fleshing out single-voice vamps on "White Winter Hymnal" with summery vocal harmonies and tambourines. It sounds like The Shins (also produced by Ek), if The Shins spent a lot more time reading.
It's complex without being difficult. All things considered, it's better than anything else out of the "baroque pop" haze.