Return Of The Harmony: Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear

In the past 6 months there have been two bands that been dominating the wet dreams of every music journalist in the country: Fleet Foxes
and Grizzly Bear.  What do bands have in common (besides being young, white, and playing a blended retro mix of folky guitar-based music)?  It’s vocal harmonies, dummy.  So what’s all the buzz really about with these bands and what are they doing that sets them apart?  Follow after the jump and we’ll break it down. 


The Fleet Foxes (above) approach seems most heavily influenced
by The Byrds.  Incorporating three and sometimes four part harmonies,
the band’s sound is thick (and as you can see, very challenging live). 
The depth of reverb (even live) is certainly reminiscent of another recent indie music darling, My Morning Jacket (who were rumored to have gotten their reverb from
recording inside farm silos!)  While FF seems to use a pretty good reverb
live, check out their debut album for a real listen in amazing vintage
style reverb dialed in to perfection. Already bursting with big guitar melodies, the huge harmonies of “Quiet Houses” would see to fill up any room they band played.               

As their vocals and even drum beat give away, Grizzly Bear seems to
have devoured the entire catalog of Phil Spector (as if their cover of “He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss” wasn’t
obvious enough – the bassline to the above “Cheerleader” will give you
another clue!)  Somehow these boys from Brooklyn seem to successfully invoked the ghost of a gaggle of girl groups from the early 60′s. Grizzly Bears approach seems to thrive on the androgony of their voices, blending in the waif-like sounds of up to three of the lads at a time.  While lacking the booming open air power of Fleet Foxes, the GB leave plenty of space for the vocals by using a more sparse instrumentation – a smart move for a band as tight as they seem to be live.  For a glimpse at one of Grizzly Bear’s biggest influence, check out the afore mention “He hit me…” by the Crystals.