Just one month into the new year and we have already seen an overwhelming surge in output from artists working in the rap genre, one of our generation’s most popular forms of music. In comparison, we’ve seen little material from other genres that have a more extended recording process. In an effort to review a variety of music I’d like to discuss an older project that you may have missed. Fleet Foxes is a critically acclaimed, and now defunct, contemporary folk band from Seattle, Washington. They released two successful albums in their short run of just four years, but before either of those projects, they recorded a brief EP – 2008’s Sun Giant EP.
This modest release is a collection of five songs they had been performing live for some time – definitively arranged for their first commercial offering. Signing their band to Sub Pop Records also gave them the priceless opportunity to work with renowned producer, Phil Ek – who had production credits on many notable indie-folk projects by the likes of Band of Horses and the Shins. These guys unquestionably have talent as composers though – using the unique sounds of fiddles, harmoniums, dulcimers and even Tibetan singing bowls to evoke an ancient rural quality of authenticity in their music.
Each one of them is credited on the cover sleeve as multi-instrumentalists; these guys understand music. These arrangements cover surprising ground for their runtimes, ebbing and swelling through unusual song structures.
If you can only get yourself to listen to one song, check out the fourth track, “Mykonos.” The song is supposedly about a struggling friend, but the imagery in the lyrics is anything but specific. The lyrics dance around detailed scenes of doors “kicking up clouds of dust” and wandering through “snow-tipped pines.” That ambiguous songwriting is what makes Sun Giant EP an oddity in the Fleet Foxes canon.
Lead songwriter, Robin Pecknold, seems not to have found his writer voice yet. He’d go on to write very plainly worded personal songs, but here he shares the feeling of his songs without ever showing us what they’re about.
The last song on the tape, “Innocent Son” stands out from the others because of how sparse it is. Pecknold sounds like he recorded the vocal part in a big empty room, booming over very quietly strummed guitar chords. Even if old English-sounding folk music isn’t your scene, Sun Giant EP could be worth checking out. There’s a lot to appreciate if you pay attention and it’s chill enough to do homework to.