October 2017

Foxes Return to the Hunt

Out of the spotlight for six years, Fleet Foxes have picked up right where they left off.

These Pacific Northwest folk-rockers first came to global attention with their self-titled 2008 debut album. Here’s a live version of one of its standout tracks, “White Winter Hymnal,” from the 2009 Glastonbury Festival in England. Note the use of acoustic guitar and mandolin, as well as the sumptuous vocal harmonies by bandleader Robin Pecknold (he’s the one on the acoustic guitar), mandolinist/keyboardist Casey Wescott, bassist Christian Wargo, and drummer Josh Tillman.

The Foxes’ next album, Helplessness Blues, came out in 2011. In the following video clip, they’re playing its ambitious title song on the public television show Austin City Limits. Wescott gets to show off his skills on pump organ and acoustic piano, while new band member Morgan Henderson plays an electric 12-string guitar fitted with a curious hammer mechanism that makes the instrument sound like a cross between a harpsichord and a hammer dulcimer.

In 2017, Fleet Foxes released their long-awaited third album, Crack-Up. Josh Tillman’s gone (now plying his trade as a solo artist under the name Father John Misty), and his drumming and background singing are missed. But Pecknold and crew still have plenty of cool ideas up their sleeves, as demonstrated by this performance of  “Third of May” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Starting about midway through the song, Henderson’s use of flute to trace around Pecknold’s vocal melody is a clever textural touch.