If Brian Wilson had been reared in Appalachia, instead of Southern California, he might have written a song like "White Winter Hymnal." Fleet Foxes, who are actually from Seattle, share Wilson's ear for harmony, and have created a song that matches the virtuosity of his best compositions. But, where Beach Boys songs are as sunny as their locale, "White Winter Hymnal" is wistful and pastoral.
Fleet Foxes have described their music as "baroque harmonic pop jams," a description so remarkably apt that it shows how defined their musical identity is. "White Winter Hymnal" is a perfect example of this paradigm: its sound is lush; its vocal harmonies are sparkling; its melody is complex, yet gorgeous; its structure is loose, though not meandering.
The innocence and nostalgia of "White Winter Hymnal" is part of a welcome trend in modern music that has become an antidote to the jaded persona that defined the rock music of the nineties. Yes, dirty rock 'n roll has its place. But only the clean beauty of a song like "White Winter Hymnal" can lift the soul.
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