Off The Record – Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

In ‘Off the Record’, I write about music that I’ve played over and over and over and over, even though it might not be cool or new or undiscovered. Most likely, these will be albums that have been written about time and time again, but, nonetheless, hold a very dear place in my heart. I will also only allow the length of the album’s running time to write about it (as both a time-saver and a challenge).

I first wrote about Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. Next up: Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut LP. *presses play*

The opening seconds of this album are so nostalgic to listen to. “Red squirrel in the morning, red squirrel in the evening, red squirrel in the morning, I’m coming to take you home.” Utter nonsense, but a truly memorable opener to this, one of the most stunning debut albums ever recorded (in my humble opinion, obviously).

Let’s first up talk about why I decided to write about this for my Off the Shelf mini-series, where I write about albums (cool or uncool, well-known or obscure) in the time it takes to listen to them. I didn’t discover some of the great folk singers from the ‘60s and ‘70s until my mid-teens because I was listening to this Fleet Foxes album on repeat. The album was released in 2008 (when I was 12! how terrible it is to be 12 years old!), the same year my dad took me to see the band at Cambridge Junction, a tiny and intimate venue where we stood a metre or so from the band’s psuedo-shy-turned-Instagram-king frontman, Robin Pecknold. The experience of being at that gig was like nothing I’d ever experienced (and have not experienced since).

On my dad’s recommendation, I’d listened to the album a few times before we went, and I really liked it. It’s complex but accessible, the harmonies are unbelievably pleasing to the ear (and immensely satisfying to the ex-cathedral chorister in me). The album was immediately comforting to hear; so wintry, so cosy (despite the fact it was released in June). The artwork (which must have really helped this album get noticed) is so perfectly apt for it. I didn’t know of Pieter Bruegel’s work before, but as a culture-hungry pre-teen I scoured Tumblr for more Bruegel afterwards. There’s a couple of Bruegel works in the National Gallery, and I remember one weekend stumbling upon them when I came to London for the day, all sulky and broke. “That’s my band!”, I thought, when I saw it. “The motherf***in’ Foxes!” Appropriating Renaissance paintings, like the Tabloid Art History Twitter account, but IRL.

Anyway, listening to the album has now progressed in such a way that we’re now on the fourth track, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. This, again, is hugely reminiscent of my early teens, sitting on my bed in a box room in the countryside, wincing at the pain of calloused fingers as I tried to learn the tab for this song on the guitar my parents got me for my 13th birthday. It also reminds me of the viral video that got First Aid Kit a record deal. Warning: this is so #forest vibes, and so 2010. And, jeez, they look SO young

It’s now dawned on me that I know pretty much every word of this album. I’m finding it tricky to write as I’m singing along too hard! On He Doesn’t Know Why, you can hear Father John Misty’s, the artist formerly known as J. Tillman, lovely, thumping drums. And then, that gorgeous, a-third-apart piano sound at the end. My, my, my, does this album even get the credit it deserves? *pauses to fangirl*

Strangely, as in reverse (and probably not uncommon for those of us born in ‘96), it was this fashionable late-Noughties era of folk that got me listening to the music that influenced it, and thus changed my life forever. So, your Fleet Foxes’ and Laura Marling debut of ‘08, the whole Mumford and Sons shit, etc, ad infinitum, got me reading lots of interviews with the bands which oft referenced artists such as Neil Young (solo and with Crosby, Still and Nash) Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Therefore, I owe a lot to this band.

Now, we’ve reached Meadowlarks. Another that’s quite easy to learn the guitar part to (a surefire dealbreaker of the music you’re listening to when you’re learning an instrument) and I yearned for a group of muso-loving friends who’d come round and sing it with me. I actually recorded two of the harmonies on this track and sang along to it (one on my PC, one of my phone. Yes, PC. The family PC). 

Track number 10, Blue Ridge Mountains, is baffling in the way you might think: ‘How is this album getting better and better? It’s less than 40 minutes long!’ The melody in the verse punches and rises in an uplifting, timeless and determined way; a melody written by a 19-year-old Pecknold. The record ends with a jaw-dropping track recorded in the 1500s (jk), Oliver James, which, when we went to see the band at the Junction, was performed acapella by Pecknold. I will never forget the atmosphere in that room as the audience stood there, transfixed. It was truly magnificent, and it’s what keeps me going to see live music – the chance that you might stumble across a moment like that, where the world stops and a group of strangers share an experience that won’t ever be repeated in the same way again. 

This album remains on my shelf as it captures a very distinct part of my adolescence: long winters crushing on boys who thought I was a lesbian, wearing fleecy lumberjack shirts, and familiarising myself with basic guitar chords, frustrated yet determined by the horrible truth that I couldn’t quite play what’s recorded on the album. I still can’t. It’s a modern classic.

Listen to it on Spotify now

 

March playlist: ‘Spring’ – 8/03/17

I have found myself pining for the countryside of late. I don’t know what it is: it could be the promise of spring that keeps being snatched away, an inability to keep up with the pace of the city, or an insatiable appetite to watch as many episodes of Escape to the Country as I possibly can on a daily basis (there’s no better entertainment than watching people with no TV experience look around properties under the stare of a huge camera lens).

I’ve also had a fair bit to deal with *emotionally* over the past couple of weeks or so, which has made me pine for wide open spaces, relative normalcy and sea air. Oh, and The Kinks. The Village Green… album always reminds me of coming back from my first Glastonbury in the car with my best mate – the most perfect pastoral album to conclude a weekend spent camping. That’s why songs from this album feature twice on this playlist, something that’s been a joy to collate. Taking the time to put together playlists is a form of self-care like no other, and making paper *visuals* to go alongside them is a proper self-luxury. Finding the perfect music to piece together helps me figure out my mood, what I’m in need of; and painstakingly scrutinising the order to put them in is anxiety-inducing at first, but oh-so satisfying once done.

Here are 10 tracks if you want something to play for the next 40 minutes (especially dedicated to all the wonderful people who’ve offered some kind of solace over the past fortnight). Click the pic below to listen:

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“I have a lot to learn & I’m starting tonight”

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I am feeling pretty excellent today, not in a really loud and shouty way (actually, I am always doing things in a particularly loud and shouty way) – yet I mean I was able to come home this afternoon and sit in a very cool room in my underwear and listen to the whole of First Aid Kit’s ‘The Lion’s Roar’ and Paul McCartney’s ‘Ram’ and not feel frustrated or hungry or crave a cigarette etc, instead just listening to the layers of instruments and thinking, ‘Yes. This is not bad at all.’  (BTW: My dad listened to The Lion’s Roar last night from start to finish and claimed it was the best album he’d heard in 10 years, apart from Fleet Foxes, well, duh.)

It was around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and after ringing a couple of friends I padded about the house for a few minutes, thought to myself ‘Jean Paul-Sartre once said, Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do-‘ and progressed to sit about just as Sartre would want. It reminds me of the time I auditioned for Drama Centre & the little old man asked me what I knew about existential writers (with a smug little smile) and I just said that quote, and smiled. I can’t remember if my audition slot was around 3pm, but my, what a line if it was. I wonder sometimes how I didn’t get a place.

I’ve just got back from a walk with my mother, which is very rare. We only walked the public footpaths around where we live but she still claims she’s never walked it before. When I said, ‘Seriously! I always walk round here.’ – or pointed to a riverbank where I once sat and read Beth Ditto’s autobiography in a whole afternoon (true story), she simply said ‘No you didn’t. Don’t lie’ and carried on walking, complaining of her hay fever and suffering her bad case of hypochondria. I love her very much but I think sometimes it is hard for us to be open with each other. It must be hard to see me growing up as I’m her youngest, and I think my incessant chatter about travelling and my gap year and continuous weekends stumbling home drunk (usually at 7am) is making her miss her youth a little. Still, she rocks and is my rock etc etc.

Meanwhile, I am luckily back into writing in the most frequent way for months; aiming to write for at least half an hour a day- with many of those half an hours spent scribbling, ‘HmMMM??!! What shall I write today??!?’ and then BAM!! Half an hour is up and I am a writer.

Also: reading:

‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ by Hunter S. Thompson, something discovered on the endlessly delightful Brain Pickingsimage (1)

 

 

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Most delightful dedication ever written. Bob Geiger, I love your work (for reasons that need not to be explained here.)

 

 

 

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Greatest chapter titles.

 

 

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& Ralph Steadman’s iconic illustrations (which are sooo tattoo worthy.)

Listening to lots of things, also:

 

 

 

Finally, photo (1)

 

I promise I am done now. Thank you for reading, and for your patience.

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