Gold Medal: Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes
The Fleet Foxes debut has a renaissance feel. Not only does it sound very humanist and pure, it is a rebirth of what Gram Parsons described as ‘cosmic American music.’ I wrote an extensive review of the Fleet Foxes stellar second album, Helplessness Blues and I still find it hard to describe which one is better. The first may not quite be as polished but it’s brimming with passion like few albums are these days. It’s impossible for me to feel cynical about this band. They’re just too good. Everyone talks about the vocal harmonies, but it’s the whole tapestry of warm expansive sound that makes this the best album of its year.
Silver Medal: In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy
I’m not a big dance music guy but this album is glorious. You can read a more extensive review of it here, but to sum it up, In Ghost Colours stands as both a dance party playlist and a cohesive musical statement. It ebbs and flows with ambient tracks splitting the fully fleshed out discotronica rock like “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found” or “So Haunted.” The latter is the build up on tension followed by a release in the chorus. Then, it concludes with a coda, as may of these addictive songs do. My favorite Australian album and band, bar none.
Bronze Medal: Fate by Doctor Dog
Dr. Dog is all that a Beatles/Beach Boys/The Band fan could ask for in modern times. Each of those three groups finds themselves in a layer of Dr. Dog’s retro sound. Fate alternates between the lead vocals of Toby Leaman (Tables) and Scott McMicken (Taxi) in a way that reminds one of Levon Helm and Richard Manuel, God bless them. But all of these songs are a total team effort, with not a single song to skip over eleven tracks. These aren’t copycats either; Dr. Dog is a rare band today that is instantly recognizable.