For anyone taking their first exploratory steps into the land of 21st-century indie-folk music, Fleets Foxes’ self-titled debut is a great place to start. Along with their precluding debut EP Sun Giant, their self-titled 2008 album quietly breached the surface of mainstream media to provide a proven, superlative foundation for future “folk-pop” bands like The Lumineers, The Avett Brothers, and Mumford & Sons to systematically profit from years later.
For others who have long-considered indie-folk their musical mainstay, Fleet Foxes infrequent releases and public coyness are constantly met with demands for more substance. There’s simply never enough content to consume from these avant-garde Seattle-ites.
In acknowledgement of their 10 year anniversary however, Fleet Foxes finally saluted the needs of their peerless fan base with a vinyl box set titled First Collection 2006-2009.
This collection, in its physical form, is a slice of time in a box. Sure, it includes all the stylish novelties that one would expect from a box set such as flyers, lyrics, and original artwork from the band’s first two years. But more important than the historic tchochkes are the musical additives.
In addition to the original Fleet Foxes album and Sun Giant EP, the set also includes a Fleet Foxes 2006 EP titled The Fleet Foxes. This largely unexplored 6-song EP was never released digitally and only had 50 physical copies produced, all of which were sold at local gigs. The Fleet Foxes EP not only represents the earliest published work of Fleet Foxes, but it hints at the sort of bewilderment that Seattle’s emblematic label Sub Pop Records saw when they signed the band in January of 2008. In a 2008 artist spotlight with Rolling Stone, the EP’s producer Phil Ek explained Sub Pop’s infatuation with lead signer Robin Pecknold prior to Fleet Foxes first digital release, telling the magazine “It was obvious that he had talent coming out of his ass.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the final record in the collection is arguably the most exciting. Formally titled B-sides and Rarities, this 8-song record includes a series of digitally unreleased tracks that accompanied Fleet Foxes early production, as well as a handful of provisional demos. The B-sides “Isles” and “False Knight on the Road”, both of which were abandoned when compiling Fleet Foxes debut EP and album, were only released in Europe as 7-inch singles respectively accompanying the band’s mega hits “White Winter Hymnal” and “Mykonos“. Also included is “Silver Dagger”, a studio cover of an old British ballad popularized by Joan Baez in the 1960’s which serves as a testament to Pecknold’s adoration of 60’s and 70’s folk history. “White Lace Regretfully” rounds out the rarities as a raw, unfinished track released by Pecknold’s sister Aja’s arts group Unified Field Collective in 2012 as part of an extremely rare assortment of incomplete songs from cultist folk heroes.
Lastly, no collector’s edition would be complete without it’s assemblage of pre-recorded demos. Seasoned minds may be tricked into perceiving demos of old alt-folk classics like “Ragged Wood” and “He Doesn’t Know Why” to be fun, reimagined alternative takes to the Fleet Foxes staples that they know and love. But as respectively labeled “Basement Sketches” and “Basement Demos”, these tracks are time capsules into the unfiltered experiments that acted as the building blocks for the band’s future eminence.
If this collectors album teaches us anything, it’s that Fleet Foxes greatness is a peculiar combination bare, organic talent and dedication to the history, theory, and hard work that have contributed to their craft for over a decade.
Favorite New Tracks: Isles, False Knight on the Road, White Lace Regretfully, Silver Dagger, English House – Basement Demo