Few bands have had the album-to-album consistency of Fleet Foxes. They’ve swapped members (Father John Misty was once their drummer) and shifted styles during 14 years of recording, but each of their four LPs has been a stirring and triumphant blend of folk and rock. Though set almost exclusively in bandleader Robin Pecknold’s native Pacific Northwest, their albums are sprawling in vision and grandiosity. Spin Magazine featured Pecknold on our cover before the release of Fleet Foxes’ second LP, Helplessness Blues, with writer David Peisner saying, “…their stunning new album might bring them mainstream success.” Peisner then mused, “But do they even want it?” That latter question has haunted Pecknold and his band since their inception. However, as the mainstream has embraced the group, and their diehard fans have remained, the band seems more at peace with attention. During this unprecedented time, Fleet Foxes released a new album, Shore, which was intentionally released exactly at the autumnal equinox on September 22, 2020. After a long hiatus, Shore is a welcome return from Fleet Foxes. The band has been screening an accompanying art film at drive-in theaters across the country, offering fans a unique way to listen to their fourth album. On the heels of Shore, Spin has found 30 artists whose style and sound mirror the legendary Seattle band.
Local Natives emerged shortly after Fleet Foxes' self-titled 2008 debut, releasing their seminal Gorilla Manor in 2009. Though Local Natives were more indebted to the sunny vibes of Southern California than those of rainy Seattle, the group excelled at the sprawling harmonies and drum-circle percussion that Fleet Foxes helped usher into the indie rock scene.
Matthew Houck's evolution as Phosphorescent has been fascinating. He began his career making quiet folk songs that were equal parts contemplative and freaky. Then, the singer/songwriter's breakthrough LP Muchacho (2013) found him embracing a new sound with a full band. The songs were more cosmic, the harmonies more electric. The whole thing was wrapped in a jangly sheen. Since then, he's taken this style even further.
Moses Sumney's new album, Græ, doesn't particularly recall the stoic folk of Fleet Foxes. But his first LP, 2017's Aromanticism, glimmers with the audacious, soaring melodies for which Fleet Foxes are so well known. Born in San Bernadino, CA, Sumney relocated to Ghana with his family at the age of 10. His vocal-heavy approach is inspired by his early songwriting efforts, which were mostly acapella.
Deer Tick's John J. McCauley is brash in all the ways Robin Pecknold is smooth, rollicking in all the ways Pecknold is measured, but there's still a corollary between how the two frontmen pull such strong emotions from their voices. Deer Tick have a country twang to everything they do, but the multi-part harmonies and infectious choruses will win the hearts of many Fleet Foxes fans.
Gregory Alan Isakov was born in South Africa, but he came to the United States as a seven-year-old, settling with his family in Philadelphia. Now located in Boulder, Colorado, Isakov makes contemplative folk music that recalls the early days of Fleet Foxes. His music's orchestral flourishes also recall the Seattle band. In 2016, Isakov's compositions were adopted for a concert with the Colorado Symphony.
Anjimile is new on the indie circut, but their debut LP, Giver Taker, has already been hailed as an alt-folk classic. The Boston-based singer turned a period of turmoil and trauma into a staggering meditation on grief, loss, optimism, and poise. Their voice moves from hushed to growling at a moment's notice, simultaneously conjuring power and great beauty.
The Cave Singers are from Seattle, though that's not the only similarity the trio shares with Fleet Foxes. They make campfire folk music that begs to be played under a bright, starry sky while you sip whiskey and get warm next to the flames. Singer Pete Quirk's voice is more nasally and gruff than Pecknold's, but the band's lush and cathartic compositions are both stirring and intimate.
While Grizzly Bear may be an obvious comparison to Fleet Foxes, Daniel Rossen's defunct side project Department of Eagles is more aligned with Pecknold's folk-pop. The band only released two albums— 2003's The Cold Nose and 2008's In Ear Park—but Rossen's project still carries serious weight. In the indie community, his songwriting and delightful singing voice are practically peerless.
Mountain Man are an all-female trio from Bennington, Vermont. They make folk with little instrumental intrusion, categorizing their work as "nestled in the tradition of American folk." Though they opt for precise minimalism instead of Fleet Foxes's maximalist approach, the two groups have similar melodic and harmonic approaches, isolating specific cadences and frameworks to center their songs.
If Fleet Foxes has a sibling band, it's Blitzen Trapper. The Portland, Oregon group rose to fame on Fleet Foxes's eventual label, Sub Pop. Blitzen Trapper began buzzing right when Fleet Foxes ascended, thanks to Trapper's 2008 LP, Furr. A beautiful and emotional collection of folk-rock songs, the album remains powerful for its striking narrative clarity and undeniable choruses.
Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen has already appeared on this list with his Department of Eagles side project, but Grizzly Bear's brand of progressive folk-rock will also appeal to Fleet Foxes fans. While they've changed styles on each album, Grizzly Bear's early records (e.g., 2006's Yellow House) mirror the woodsy folk of Fleet Foxes.
Midlake had the unenviable task of replacing singer Tim Smith, who quit in 2012, but their style has always been similar to that of Fleet Foxes. Though the band hasn't released an LP since 2013's Antiphon, they remain celebrated for early hit records like The Courage of Others (2010).
Dr. Dog are classicists. They make rock music and do it well. There isn't too much flash to their style, but anyone that can occasionally sound like the Beatles is good in our book. Their layered harmonies, classic grooves, and haunting, catchy melodies will alsoappeal to any Fleet Foxes fan.
Cass McCombs is quiet and reclusive. He doesn't like people knowing much about his comings and goings, which is a refreshing left-turn from many hyper-online artists. His style of folk-rock is quieter and more contemplative than that of Fleet Foxes, but his occasional forays into psychedelia and expansive soundscapes will resonate with fans of Pecknold & co.
Though Mosnters of Folk is no longer active, the sardonically named supergroup's output remains relevant. Made up of My Morning Jacket's Jim James and M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes, the quartet made stadium-ready folk songs with memorable lyrics and palpable energy. Their only album, a self-titled LP, is still infinitely listenable 11 years later.
M. Ward is most well known as a member of She & Him and Monsters of Folk, but his solo career is filled with lush Americana and roots music. His guitar is always crisp and clean, the pedal steel shimmering in concert with his slightly graveled voice. It's music made for fall weather, cold and gray but still unendingly beautiful.
The Morning Benders didn't last long in their first incarnation, but their second LP, Big Echo, was a rousing collection of upbeat folk-pop hits. The album was co-produced by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, and the band seemed on-track to join the elite indie-rock ranks alongside Fleet Foxes. After Big Echo, however, they changed their name to POP ETC and released an album that alienated many core fans.
Mount Moriah is a Chapel Hill-based trio led by the wonderful H.C. McEntire. Her solo output is excellent, and her group makes engaging country-leaning folk. Their music moves with religious underpinnings, with McEntire trying to find her place in a Christianity community that feels exclusionary. You won't find her undeniable twang and delivery anywhere else in indie rock.
While Sufjan Stevens' career has had an unpredictable trajectory, the loose folk underbelly of his early records makes him a clear contemporary of Fleet Foxes. Albums like 2003's Michigan and 2005's Illionis established Stevens as a prolific, brilliant songwriter with a penchant for keen observations and lush compositions.
Wye Oak is an indie rock duo from Baltimore, Maryland, but their music betrays serious roots and folk influences. Despite being limited to guitars and drums, the band, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack make more noise than your favorite four-piece. Their biggest album Civilian, is a tour de force, showcasing one of the most creative bands in indie rock at the height of their power.
We could only avoid him for so long. While Father John Misty is much more well known, Josh Tillman's first project, J. Tillman, is more stylistically aligned with Fleet Foxes, the band he left to pursue his solo career. The songs are hushed and gorgeous, glacially moving and maniacally precise. Tillman hints at his songwriting power all throughout these records, but it wasn't until he traded in quiet phrasings for excessive bombast as Father John Misty that he became a national star.
You probably know Phil Elverum one way or another. The singer has written songs under the name Mount Eerie, but before that project emerged, he performed as The Microphones. He was also briefly married to Michelle Williams after his first wife tragically passed away. As The Microphones, he taps into his Northwest roots and makes beautifully distorted lofi rock with a penchant for naturalistic lyrics.
Shakey Graves is arguably the most popular artist to emerge out of Austin, Texas, aside from Gary Clark Jr. The folk superstar has found a home in the land of outlaw country music, tapping into the deep, mysterious roots of the genre and creating his own concoction of blues, rock, and folk. A troubadour for the 21st century, he has a voice at once gravelly and magnetic.
David Ramirez is another stellar Austin, Texas-based musician who has steadily grown his following in the last decade. His 2020 album, My Love is a Hurricane, cemented his status as a supremely talented songwriter. His tunes lean towards country and folk, with swelling organs and delightful pedal steel guitar accenting his otherworldly voice.
Middle Brother consists of John McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Delta Spirit's Matthew Logan Vasquez. Though they released their only album in 2011 (and haven't played together since 2016), the group remains known for their rollocking live shows, ample use of harmonies, and infectious songwriting.
Tré Burt's 2020 album Caught It From the Rye was released on John Prine’s Oh Boy Records. Though Prine sadly passed away earlier this year, his style and grace lives on in Burt's finely tuned folk stylings. His voice is gruff and naturalistic, offering an unfiltered look at Blackness in America and the realities of his place in an overwhelmingly white industry.
Madeline Kenney has seen her stock soar after the release of her latest album, Sucker's Punch. Based in Oakland, California, Kenney makes an enthralling blend of indie rock, folk, and pop, accenting her sturdy compositions with clever, funny lyrics and a wonderful voice.
Alexander Biggs is from Melbourne, Australia, and will likely remind fans more of Elliott Smith than Fleet Foxes upon first listen. But his songwriting hinges on subtlety and precision. His instrumentation glimmers with buoyancy, but his lyrics look towards past regrets, floundering faith, and missed connections. His voice is hushed, but in that quiet lies a discerning power.
Christelle Bofale is an Austin, Texas-based songwriter who uses folk traditions as a way of exploring, jazz, soul, and post-rock music. It’s spacey but tethered to Bofale’s beautiful, powerful voice, which is partly why we see a similarity to Fleet Floxes. Though Bofale’s last record is a short EP titled Swim Team, the way her songs knottily unfurl and wrap around her stunning voice makes it one of the strongest debuts in recent memory.