Seattle's Fleet Foxes seemed to come out of nowhere to produce what is, for many, the album of the year. The beauty of their eponymous debut is that it could have been the album of any year. It has that timeless quality, drawing on music from many places and periods, including the pre-rock era. Allusions to medieval ballads have even been made in reviews, a feeling enhanced by the imagery of Tiger Mountain Peasant Song ("Wanderers this morning came by, Where did they go, Graceful in the morning light, To banner fair.").
The astonishingly accomplished five-piece, led by the 21-year-old Robin Pecknold, have labelled what they do "baroque harmonic pop jams", a neat way of encapsulating their vocal-led creations that, although they feature a complex mesh of voices, have the instant allure of the most commercial chart hits. Another title, White Winter Hymnal, perfectly captures the magic Fleet Foxes weave here, with its sense of quasi-religious devotionals being sung atop a bright, snowy Crystal Mountain, while He Doesn't Know Why dovetails the two versions of California suggested by much of Fleet Foxes' music: the doo-wop and barbershop-influenced pop of the Beach Boys and the harmonically rich folk-rock of Crosby Stills Nash & Young.