This year at Hidden Track, we concocted a little experiment for our year-end Best Albums of 2009 list. Instead of picking the old fashioned way – subjectively – we opted for something a little different: a collaborative, collective list that incorporates the opinions of everybody here at HT.
To begin, we devised an all-encompassing list of around 100 nominees and populated it in a Google spreadsheet – essentially anything that anybody who writes for Hidden Track liked at all, made the list. Then we invited our crew of writers to independently vote on the whole list (omitting anything unfamiliar) on a scale of 1 to 20 (20 = five stars). We ended up with 33 voters with varying degrees of familiarity with the nominees; some folks voted on just about everything, while some just a few. From there, we eliminated anything that did not receive at least three votes, calculated the average scores, and sorted it. We took the top 25 scores and presto: the Hidden Track 25 Best Albums of 2009. No bullshit, no big opinions; just the results.
Let’s check out numbers 15 through 11 and see what made the cut…
Key Tracks: Hey, Chains Chains Chains, Doomsday
Sounds Like: Part marching band, Part Dylan-esque folk-rock
Skinny: Perkins sophomore effort is more of a complete representation of what he and his band In Dearland sound like. The combo’s “antique music” can best be summed up as equal parts ramshackle folk and Sousa marching band, making it virtually impossible at times to keep you from from tapping your feet along to songs like Hey, I Heard Your Voice In The Dresden and Doomsday with Perkins’ vivid lyrics as the guide.
READ ON for the next four albums in our week long countdown…
Key Tracks: My Wife’s Home Town, If You Ever Go To Houston
Sounds Like: Zimmy with some Southern swing
Skinny: While critics want to christen this another “creative period” for the legendary singer-songwriter, after forty-plus years recording and an astounding studio output has there ever been a time when he wasn’t creative? For Dylan’s 33rd record, as if he needed any help writing songs, he recruited none other than Robert Hunter as a writing buddy. Dylan also moved away from the jump blues sound that he had fallen in love with this decade courtesy of David Hidalgo of Los Lobos fame who added his accordion skills, giving Together Through Life the feel of hanging out in a dusty saloon somewhere deep in the Southwest.
Sounds Like: a more acoustic Radiohead, Band of Horses
Skinny: Grizzly Bear may possess the only album whose acclaim could compete with Animal Collective’s, which largely comes as a tribute to the group’s attention to detail on Veckatimest – which easily doubles as the year’s hardest album to spell. Let there be no denying that critics are suckers for walls of effects and layered harmonies (especially if they’re from Brooklyn and employ a choir), but Grizzly Bear deserves their lauding as this album has that interest building quality that comes only when the details can be peeled away in layers and reveal themselves over time.
Key Tracks: Souverian, Anonanimal
Sounds Like: Sufjan Stevens, but with more whistling
Skinny: After adding masses of fans with a much more accessible Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird simultaneously stepped back from the featherweight fans and stepped it up for those interested in seeing what he could really do compositionally, as he went for more symphonic arrangements. Lots of changes – both within songs and from one to another – abound. Less hit singles make for a more forgettable reception, but Noble Beast represents no less of an achievement.
Key Tracks: Say Please, Whole Lotta Losin’, The Sandman The Breakman & Me
Sounds Like: M. Ward, Bright Eyes & My Morning Jacket – duh
Skinny: Consider the Monsters Of Folk the Voltron of indie-rock – as separately the members of the band (Conor Oberst, M. Ward & Jim James) have put out some of the best albums of the decade, but when their powers combine they have the potential to become an unstoppable force. You’ve got everything you’ve come to expect from their solo work – wordy songs via Conor, sepia-tinged Americana from M. Ward and a dose of Jim James’ Southern outer-space soul – just often times within one song.