FLEET FOXES: Fleet Foxes [Sub Pop]

Let’s get this right out in the open: Yes, Fleet Foxes sound like My Morning Jacket and, in turn, Band Of Horses. Buckets of vocal reverb and a taste for jangly roots music will do that. But looking beyond first impressions, this Seattle band’s rustic warmth and ’70s-shaded ambition deserve more than a brisk rundown of influences. Building on the promise shown on this spring’s Sun Giant EP, Fleet Foxes’ full-length debut showcases a gift for folk-adjacent mini-epics that evolve in unexpected directions yet never lose their organic center. “Ragged Wood” begins with a shuffling twang, but before settling too deeply into standard top-down Americana, the song downshifts into a loose, lovesick midsection whose eventual peak feels as natural as it does surprising. Yet for all the skillful touches shown throughout (the gorgeous piano closing “He Doesn’t Know Why,” the crescendo soaring over the flute-accented “Your Protector”), Fleet Foxes is practically stolen by “White Winter Hymnal,” a deceptively simple campfire nursery rhyme. At two-and-a-half hypnotic minutes, the song—like the rest of the album—may sound familiar, but it also is remarkably close to perfect. [www.subpop.com]

—Chris Barton