"Oh, yeah. You gotta check out Fleet Foxes. They're incredible."
But I did not check out the Fleet Foxes. Instead, I kept their alliterative name in my memory bank and missed every single one of their bunches of concerts. Later -- 2006 in fact -- someone gave me their first self-titled EP.
"Damn," I thought, "these guys are good."
And right up my alley, too, as a 26-year-old Northwest male who wears a lot of sweaters and holds down a full beard I'm slightly too young for. I grew up listening to Elliott Smith (my favorite) and the Beach Boys (my mom's favorite). I love vocal harmonies and excruciatingly well-composed pop songs. I'm exactly Fleet Foxes' target demographic.
It didn't get much past liking them until this summer, when I heard their full-length self-titled album and saw them perform twice and suddenly figured out what Fleet Foxes were put on Earth to do.
They are (or at least front man Robin Pecknold and guitarist Skye Skjelset are) from the suburbs -- Kirkland, my home, too, a place of egregious disposability, tract housing and strip malls -- and exist to create the opposite: art that is utterly, completely timeless.
It's pre-rock camp and church music, and I don't know what the songs are about, but they might as well be about Fire and God. Fleet Foxes could find an audience at any time from medieval times to now because their music is beautiful like sunsets, trees, constellations and castles.
Years ago, it was possible to sleep on the Fleet Foxes. Today I couldn't if I tried. With word-of-mouth buzz fueled by electric live shows, it was still possible to not listen to the Fleet Foxes. That's not true anymore. I am bombarded by their presence. In print (every paper in every city they play), on the Internet (mtv.com, pitchfork), on the radio (indie, Clear Channel and NPR): Every day, the band reaches a new pinnacle of fame. It's a big deal.
And of course, the band has found its haters. They say "Fleet Foxes sound like the Shins." And they do. For half a song. The chord-y first part of "He Doesn't Know Why." Quite unlike the Shins, though, Pecknold unleashes a powerhouse vocal refrain halfway through that is rawer and more moving than the Shins' entire body of work.
The haters say "Quiet Houses" sounds like Beach Boys. Yeah, but in all the right ways. Who's really got the balls to try and make "Surf's Up"-era stuff? Barely anyone else.
The haters, perhaps most scathingly, say "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" sounds like Paul Simon and Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell. Absolutely: Simon's Anglophilic acoustic guitar structure and Bridwell pronouncing "dear" as "dee-er" and "anything" is "anytheeng."
So what's the problem? There isn't one.
Fleet Foxes opens for Wilco at the INB Center tonight, Thursday, Aug. 21, at 8 pm. Price: $29. Call 325-seat or visit Ticketswest.com