It’s time I get back to my not-very-special specialty: reviewing.
I can’t say I have a really good music taste or whatever. I rarely spend time exploring new music because I love my library too much already and I’m too lazy for it. But every once in a while I’ll accidentally found new music to obsess over for a few months or so. Lately I haven’t been listening to anything other than two albums: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence and the Machine, and Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album. I even made a playlist on my phone that only contains these two beautiful gems.
They might have a lot of winter elements in them than summer, but screw it, I came across these on a sad warm summer night, therefore I declare these summer records.
I found out Florence and the Machine around last year from their hit songs Shake It Out and No Light, No Light. Their previous album, Ceremonials, was the one that really caught me. Florence has her soul poured out in every of her song, something that kind of stays with you. It was grandeur, over-the-top, an eclectic mix of church choirs and tribal sounds. In a word, otherworldly. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was a bit different. It still got her old sounds, but the purpose was no longer to create something big. This time, she aims for honesty. It lays her emotions bare for us all to see: she releases her anger completely on tracks like What Kind of Man, showing her delicate side on St Jude and Long & Lost, and accepting her fears and weakness on Third Eye, Hiding, and Delilah.
HBHBHB sounds like something very intimate to Florence’s heart, and I really admire her bravery to open up and share her heart to the world. Florence and the Machine’s work had always been personal and soulful, but this one’s kind of different. Florence dropped all her glittery cape, Pagan goddess image and dark lyrics about drowning, and exchanged it with gazes upon the sky and recovery. Her hit singles, What Kind of Man and Ship To Wreck, could easily make the album be mistaken as a heartbreak record, but it’s really all about picking pieces of yourself that scattered around the floor and owning up your vulnerability.
My favorite track is Third Eye, that sounds almost motivational with lyrics like you are flesh and blood / you deserve to be love and you deserve what you are given. Until you realize that she’s actually speaking to herself, trying to nudge herself up. And there’s just something unspeakably beautiful with a person learning to love themselves as they are. The title track is also one of my favorites, it has such an optimistic notion to it, you know, the sense of openness. The moment you gaze up the sky and realize the unlimited possibility that anything could happen. What are we gonna do? We’ve opened the door, now it’s all coming through. While Delilah, my other favorite, still has Florence’s old music’s scent all over it from the usage of metaphors and lyrics about inner demons, yet it’s still strangely alluring to me.
The interesting thing is that the original album concept was a Hollywood witchcraft trial. But the producer, Markus Dravs (also worked with Coldplay, Arcade Fire, and Bjork) convinced her to work with more straightforward, emotional songs (he also banned Florence from writing songs about drowning, which she did a lot in Ceremonials). Which Witch, a demo song included in the deluxe album, was probably one of the songs prepared for the earlier concept. It’s freaking amazing. But then, we wouldn’t have all these feelings floating around. Nor would we have such heartwarming album that speaks to us personally and caress us with every note. Nothing compares to that, really.
Okay, so my Fleet Foxes fangirl friends recommends me to listen to them. I don’t religiously follow bands or fall in love over their members or anything. Solo musicians appeal more to me somehow (when it comes to Florence and The Machine, I don’t know a lot about anyone except Florence Welch really). But I came across White Winter Hymnal in a lot of playlist in 8tracks, and if you’ve listened to it, the melody is quite catchy and it never leaves your head. So I gave the self-titled album a try.
I still can’t quite put my finger on what I like from this album. I just have this unexplainable fondness towards this self-titled album. I grew up listening to my parents’ collection of pirated Simon and Garfunkel CDs so it’s undeniably reminiscent. Also, Robin Pecknold’s playfully crisp vocal gives me chills upon the chorus of Blue Ridge Mountain.
Not only Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes is a graceful indie folk nostalgia record, it also has a certain kind of magic to it. It’s a one-way portal to a magical land, or a silent camp in the middle of the forest at midnight. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song feels like huddling with the best people you’ve known in your lives in front of the campfire. Ragged Wood feels like a beautifully cliche road trip in a Volkswagen van, the one that gives you philosophical thoughts while shouting around with your friends. Heard Them Stirring is what it feels like to walk barefoot among the woods, feeling the earthy ground seeping between your toes, witnessing the woods coming alive at the gentle strike of dawn. It gets you lost in the otherworldly tale of brothers and fathers and sons, talking animals, cascading rivers, and the silent rhythm of the forest that resounds with every tone. My personal favorite is Blue Ridge Mountain, a beautiful escape to the green hills that wakes up the child in me. It could be a perfect soundtrack to any Ghibli films.
Simply put, this album takes me to adventures in places I’ve never been and builds a home in those strange places. It’s kind of my safe place, and I’m forever grateful for my Fleet Foxes salesgirls. Haven’t had time to dig around Father John Misty and Poor Moon’s songs, but I will!
(Also, what do you think of my new theme?)
Update: a Fleet Foxes salesgirl pointed out to me that Tiger Mountain Peasant Song is about murder. Yeah well, you can never go wrong huddling around the campfire with your friends just after you hide the body in the middle of the woods.