and if i’ve wounded you, i’m sorry – i had good intentions

A mix of sadness and hope pervades Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore’s Dear Companion, a sentiment that makes sense for a collaboration hoping to draw attention to the destruction of mountaintop removal coal mining that is occurring in and around their Kentucky home. Sollee and Moore recruited fellow Kentuckian Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket, Monsters of Folk) to produce and contribute, and a contemplative ode to the region was born.

The songs on Dear Companion range from instrumental interludes (“Wilson Creek”) and sweet meditations appropriate for creekside autumn days (“Flyrock #2) to slow reservation yielding to joy peeking through (“Try”).

Deep cello and thumping banjo dominate “Something, Somewhere, Sometime”, while Sollee’s playing takes a different tack on “Sweet Marie” with beautiful swells that envelop plaintive vocals and lead in horns and haunted, drifting calls. Unique is the mid-album title track, frantic and lurching, slinking along in the velvet black of night.

Dear Companion drops on 02/16/10.
Download “Something, Somewhere, Sometime” here.
A portion of proceeds from Dear Companion will go to Appalachian Voices, dedicated to ending mountaintop removal.

the sound of ancient voices ringing soft upon your ear

On their self-titled LP, Fleet Foxes sound like the Beach Boys had they grown up in the middle of a forest instead of a sunny beach. Or like My Morning Jacket if MMJ was made up of classically-trained choir kids. Or The Shins on a granola high. Fleet Foxes paradoxically sound like everyone and no one at the same time.

The group’s main feature is their mastery of vocal harmony. It’s thick and echoing and cathedral-worthy and used more often than not, which makes lead singer Robin Pecknold’s voice that much more powerful and striking when heard on its own.

Several of Fleet Foxes’s songs evoke quasi-nebulous places, like the country road sunset of “Ragged Wood” and the dusty southwestern sprawl of “Your Protector”.

The non-verbal humming on “Heard Them Stirring” completes the overall tapestry of the piece (yes, Fleet Foxes make you use words like ‘tapestry’ – but without gagging) and the short piano addendum to “He Doesn’t Know Why” is downright beautiful.

Tracks like “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” and “Meadowlarks” wouldn’t be out of place in your average New Age shop, but they translate well enough into the indie-folk world to keep people from smashing their heads into the wall from boredom and spite (it may be from the merciful lack of pan flutes and chimes).

Fleet Foxes dropped 06/03/08.
For the MP3 and video of “White Winter Hymnal” click here.