Seattle's Fleet Foxes, who are releasing a much-anticipated new record tomorrow, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop), got the star treatment this weekend with an above-the-fold front-page Sunday story peering out from Seattle Times boxes.

They also scored a big feature in the Sunday NYT (written by Rolling Stone's top album critic, Will Hermes.)

Here's Hermes:
It’s a rich, handsome set of songs, often centered on acoustic guitars, marked by sumptuous vocal harmonies but with an emphasis on Mr. Pecknold’s introspective lyrics. It’s a throwback to the late ’60s sounds of Crosby, Stills and Nash; Simon and Garfunkel; and other period acts. At the same time, Mr. Pecknold’s apprehensions notwithstanding, it also exists very much “in the context of contemporary indie rock” — in part because his group has had a hand in shaping that context.

“Helplessness Blues” follows Fleet Foxes’ self-titled 2008 debut, a set of woodsy, imagistic folk-rock songs that struck a chord with a remarkably broad range of music fans. It sold 400,000 physical copies in the United States and 700,000 in Europe, striking numbers for a small-label debut of this sort, with equally impressive digital sales. It received a rare 9.0 rating from the tastemaking Web site Pitchfork, known for its 20-something readership. It was also selected as Album of the Year in an online poll conducted by National Public Radio, whose demographic skews quite a bit older. The record earned the band a spot on “Saturday Night Live”; on the coveted point-of-purchase racks in Starbucks; and, apparently, on the playlists of innumerable restaurants throughout the country that serve local produce.

And Here's Matson:
Pecknold is the key to Fleet Foxes' success. His scruffy, bearded face is on the cover of this month's "Spin" magazine. The new album is on Seattle's Sub Pop label, whose unofficial house producer Phil Ek is also key to the story.

Fleet Foxes' layered vocal harmonies are sometimes like the audio equivalent of a ferryboat ride from Anacortes to the San Juans, with the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges on the distant horizon. At other times, they're more melancholy and interior. But there's a sophistication to the band that also reflects our scrubbed post-Microsoft urban landscape — glassy skyscrapers with clouds reflected in the windows.

The music press characterizes Fleet Foxes' as "neo-folk," a reference to its roots in '60s singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Simon and Garfunkel. Forty years later in Seattle, folk is back in vogue. Though Pecknold doesn't align himself with the local resurgence, centered on the Ballard pub Conor Byrne — "We're not in that community," he says — it's a convenient way to understand the band's music.
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