“What a life I lead in the summer / what a life I lead I lead in the spring” — a devotional hymn that threatens to suffocate the sticky summer air. Jeffrey, a nice, rural chap hums to himself as he flicks on Fleet Foxes’ new EP “Sun Giant.” Memories of unfortunately bad movies might come to mind, but theirs is a style beloved by quieter country folk who live out in the wild and take libations from pools of river water. Like Jeffrey. They’re “Not Hippies,” though, they’re just from Seattle.
If one likes singing with little instrumental work, the track “Sun Giant” may be exciting. Otherwise, don’t bother with it. Like Jeffrey, it’s a little too nice.
He proceeds down a road that was tarmacked only a few years ago. He turns, embracing the God-in-a-flower nature of this album, frozen in a cinematic still. He is wearing a lumberjack shirt not like a student, but in an earnest, hardworking sort of way. His beard is soft; it tells of his peaceful nature.
Jeffrey is more than just a farmer; he has a liberal-arts education and remembers the hippy days. Yes, this comes with “Drops in the River,” which adds layers to the nice-but-dim first track. Jeffrey is somehow the persona of the album, never mentioned, but always there, perhaps smoking, perhaps kneeling in a sylvan glade. Always numbed by Xanax. Clouds rush past the imagination, people relax and the atmosphere becomes a little less taught. Strange, the rest of the EP is better than the title track.
Some sort of climax to transcendence seems to be at work here, and in this way, the EP is structured beautifully. Gracefully pivoting towards an underblown climax, like a leaf lifting slightly under the pressure of a light breeze and then tumbling into the current before falling again to the ground.
“Mykonos” is the most lively song on “Sun Giant.” Reminiscent of gypsies moving in circles about a fire, it is at once innocent and situated between the sheets of contemporary indie music. A lean spawn of the ’60s, “Mykonos” drifts around a weedy field of ruins and over cliffs in its “hollow sound … / With a vision of a channel coast / And a sun to dissipate.” The atmosphere is joyfully post-apocalyptic, just like watching the sun in the sky after a night of revel on the Greek party island, your faces revealing only “Shadows of the mess you made.” Everyone else is asleep.
Jeffrey’s life seems to be an after-trauma. Maybe he took too many drugs as a student, maybe his girlfriend just broke up with him. But the trauma of this album’s 25-35 age bracket persona is real and the purity of its Arcadian revel is haunted by a deep dissatisfaction flitting about the framework of this otherwise soothing album.
“There’s no time for hesitation now” proclaims singer Robin Pecknold on “Innocent Son.” The loss of the opening (“You left me there waiting there at the bottomless ditch”) is sated with “You suddenly falling beside me on the ghost of a morning.” We can rub our eyes in glee and slumber, we can tingle with the excitement of earliness, with the utmost manifestation of the cult of nature in the beaten guitar notes drifting into a summer breeze.
The pain at issue throughout the EP has been staunched. Maybe Jeffrey has finally decided to get his MA degree. His girlfriend might have reconsidered; in any case, let us hope that Fleet Foxes can finally produce an album just as good as this. The unrestrained pleasure principle seems to be opened for enjoyment here, although Jeffrey probably doesn’t want to do coke in nightclubs or sleep with hookers. His vibe’s more LSD in the fields, a reawakening of the erogenous zones, becoming at one with the Earth, the sky, everything.
Because Jeffrey is the Sun Giant.