The general consensus concerning Fleet Foxes is that “White Winter Hymnal” is the highlight and summarizing document of their self-titled debut album. While I will gladly support the song (it’s an excellent piece that displays outstanding musicianship), my nod will have to go to “Ragged Wood.”
The main reason for the superiority of this song is the more “epic” nature of the experience. While “Hymnal” is a very organic song, “Ragged Wood” shows more pure power from the band. Yes – the trademark vocal harmonies are there and completely gorgeous. But the song simply feels bigger than its counterparts. A large reason for this is the presence of multiple parts. The song opens with a beautiful vocal call from the whole band (a simple-yet-powerful “whoa” that is uttered with wonderful harmonic splendor). Then the loving call kicks in as the main voice pleads, “You should come back home.”
Following this, the song lightens to mainly acoustic guitars, providing a sense of introspection as “evening arrives.” It’s a very spiritual experience, further improved by a minimal guitar solo (that involves slightly louder, lyrical plucking). Soon enough, the band comes back in full, expanding to fill the space again, aided by more powerful drums. It’s a stunning change that brings a smile to the face. From here, the band carries this style out to the song’s conclusion. The end is met with a decrease in volume and a final organ chord.
This song is simply a joy for the ears. Gorgeous guitars meet perfect percussion and only elevate the stunning vocal delivery. Fleet Foxes is an amazing band and “Ragged Wood” is the highlight of their spectacular debut album. In any other year, this would probably be my flat out favorite for song of the year. But there’s another band with the top song of the year, and you’ll see that soon.