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 20 through 16 and see what made the cut…
Key Tracks: Stillness Is The Move, Useful Chamber, Two Doves
Sounds Like: Art Rock for people that like Folk Rock, Talking Heads
Skinny: Is it possible that The Dirty Projectors made an art-rock jamband album? With just nine tracks, Bitte Orca covers a lot of ground with a handful of songs that wind their way past the five minute mark – employing schizophrenic twist and turns that include sharp tempo changes, odd time signatures and everything from hand claps to harpsichords. The band has also impressed the likes of David Byrne – who recorded a song with them for the Dark Was The Night compilation – and The Roots who jammed with them at show at Bowery Ballroom shortly after they appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
READ ON for the next four albums in our week long countdown…
Key Tracks: 60 Feet Tall, Hang You from the Heavens, 3 Birds
Sounds Like: The White Stripes , Echoes-era Floyd, Graeme Revell
Skinny: With slick, trippy blues riffs, a loud-ass master, and some heavy-duty effects, Jack White’s latest workaholic output succeeds in keeping both him and us busy. Collaborating with Allison Mosshart from the Kills, Dan Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age, and his Raconteurs cronies, White’s The Dead Weather sounds infinitely more Stripes-like than the Raconteurs, if only more badass. Also, hate to diss on Meg, as she adds an element of both soul and showmanship, but the Dead Weather give a sense of the White Stripes with an upgrade to the rhythm section.
Key Tracks: Slow Parade, Oh the Vampyre
Sounds Like: Townes Van Zandt, Elliot Smith
Skinny: Drawing on his captivating vocal rasp and curious lyricism, A.A. Bondy creates an eerie dreamscape that reads like disjointed Edgar Allen Poe narrative complete with haunting stories and symbolic icons. Broadly, the album juxtaposes this wraith-like disposition with tranquil minimalist song structures highlighted by finger-picked lullabies as well as quiet piano and string accompaniments. Of today’s talented young singer-songwriters, Bondy earns a place as not only one of the brightest, but also the weirdest.
Key Tracks: Aisle 13, Life is a Dream, Done
Sounds Like: Pavement, Modest Mouse
Skinny: In a year where swooshy, whirl-laden albums clearly led the pack, Built to Spill stuck to anthemic rock and roll and frankly they blew the doors off most of those brownstone hipsters. The opening track alone, Aisle 13 – which may well be the best damn song of the year – earns Built to Spill a sturdy spot on this list, but the album shines from start to finish. We can’t recommend this one enough.
Key Tracks: It’s a four-song EP, so all of them
Sounds Like: For Emma, Forever Ago
Skinny: It’s not too often an EP makes it’s way onto a “Best Of” list, so that should tell you something about the power of the music that Justin Vernon makes. The four-song album – which this time around was recorded with his full band – picks up where his debut left off with hauntingly beautiful songs that just seem to penetrate you to your core. While Blood Bank doesn’t carry the weighty story of his debut, you can still feel some of the leftover heartache in its bleak, yet melodic tunes.