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’ll always have Paris (or else)

UPDATE: I now have 10 followers! And I’ve had 2 page views from KENYA! Which made me laugh a bit, because one can never imagine what you write hunched over a keyboard in a stinky box room in your tiny house could be read by someone on the other side of the world. It makes me feel very very small.

I want to share some pictures from my recent trip to Paris. I went a few weeks ago, and as I was *on a break* from my blog, I didn’t have this in mind, so there is a lack of ~street style~ and the photographs are more like, “Oh, wow. A pretty alleyway. If I just add a filter this will look less photo, more PHOTOGRAPHY.” (I don’t regret it, I’m more of a note-taker than a picture-taker.

The reason I went is because I’m studying French for my A Levels and for my 17th birthday my mum thought it a good idea to take me to Paris for four days, insisting that I ONLY spoke French (exception: when I talk to her, she’s not French. She kept saying Si. I was all like, it’s just oui.) and ordered meals, bought tickets etc, all in French. I did better than I thought I would, and what shocked me is that people actually speak French outside of my French classroom! I thought this would be a funny anecdote and said it to a few people on return, but noone laughed, just as you’re not laughing right now.

Diary entry for ‘vendredi 5 avril’:

I feel so doomed. I’m in Paris, and I have to go home tomorrow, but I think that if I leave I might die.

PLOT SPOILER: I’m still here, very much alive.

Anyway, for me, I know that I’ll go back- because it felt so right to be there. Sure, all capital cities have that allure- Rome is still my favourite place in the world, but there’s something about Paris. I haven’t quite worked out what it is yet. It’s probably in French, and my French is still too E-grade standard to translate it.

The best thing was stumbling across places without meaning to, like (oh FUCK! This is the Amelie cafe!)

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I had to take this picture THREE times, and all times indifferent Parisian waiters nudged past me tutting, ‘ugh filles anglaises’ (this didn’t happen but I felt paranoid)

I think that discovering something new (a place, a band etc) is such a personal thing, for example, my few days in Paris are remembered by moments where I satisfied things I’ve been learning about or singing to every day of my life at home. Joni Mitchell’s ‘California’, opens with ‘Sitting in a park in Paris, France’- so when I sat in a park in Paris, France you can’t even UNDERSTAND how that felt (I know, I’m a moron)

Also, we when we visited the spectacular Musée D’orsay, there was an exhibition of Second Empire furniture, which SOUNDS dull! But boy, it was so rad! I’ve been reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Huis Clos’ recently- and this is the kind of Second Empire style where my fear and general bad ~vibes~ for this decor came from. It’s just got LAYERS

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Near the Sacre-Coeur
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If I hadn’t spent all my money on 95c baguettes, I would’ve bought this.

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The most idyllic place: AMBIANCE JAZZ COCKTAILS

I honestly feel like I haven’t even touched the surface of this all, I might get around to another post some other time, once I’ve properly listened to the music I bought there and read the books.

What did I wear in Paris? I took no pictures, but I can Polyvore it, and you won’t believe me, but nevertheless I hope you agree with my taste. (This is mainly what I wore, big old secondhand riding jacket and all, and ALWAYS an extra pair of shoes as one simply MUST do in Paris.)

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Have a good one, X