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Fleet Foxes: Indie-Pop's Celestial Choir

If The Shins' members were lavishly bearded and sang like a celestial choir, they might sound like Fleet Foxes, a Seattle band whose blended harmonies mesh beautifully with sweet, pure, subtly lavish arrangements. Fleet Foxes' full-length debut, Ragged Wood, fuses warmth with majesty in a way rarely heard outside of, say, a mid-period My Morning Jacket record.

Still, though Fleet Foxes' music often gets drenched in rich harmonies, "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" shows how much sonic and thematic ground the group can cover with one pure vocal and a couple of acoustic guitars. The gently plucked opening notes may conjure images of Kansas' "Dust in the Wind," but that vibe quickly dissipates once Robin Pecknold's high, clear, plaintive voice soars into the picture.

At first, "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" seems content to mourn philosophically — "Dear shadow, alive and well / How can the body die / You tell me everything / Anything true" — but by the end, it's only grown more complicated. When Pecknold laments, "I don't know what I have done / I'm turning myself to a demon," it's clear that in Fleet Foxes' world, beauty and darkness not only coexist, but ultimately share the same form.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)