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 kick things off with numbers 25 through 21…
Key Tracks: Stars Of Leo, Rave On, Never Had Nobody Like You
Sounds Like: An old antique photo
Skinny: In 2008 M. Ward seemed to take a backseat to doe-eyed actress Zooey Deschanel as the Him in vintage indie-pop act She & Him, but he was back in 2009 with his latest solo release, Hold Time. The album is full of everything we’ve come to expect from Matt over the years – modern indie-rock that is completely bathed in the patina of the last fifty-plus years of pop music. Combining his sepia-drenched vocals and open tuning guitar work with guest appearances from the aforementioned Deschanel, Lucinda Williams and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle.
READ ON for the next four albums in our countdown…
Key Tracks: Sweet Inspiration, Aimless Peacock, Back Where I Started
Sounds Like: Widespread Panic, Bonnie Raitt, Bhangra, Dr. John, Buddy Guy
Skinny: The feel good family story of the scene – that of lovebirds Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi – culminates in joyful bayou boogie as Derek Truck’s sixth studio effort recorded at their homestead results in an album that is at once happy, virtuoso, accessible, loving, and exploratory. And don’t worry, amidst of all the feel-good soul, Truck’s fascination with Middle Eastern music gets a fair shake, as Trucks tears into some far out landscapes.
Key Tracks: Lille, Ocean & A Rock, Venn Diagram
Sounds Like: Natalie Merchant meets Joni Mitchell
Skinny: After serving as Damian Rice’s muse since the beginning of the decade, Rice ended his professional relationship with Hannigan in 2007 citing “creative differences”. The break proved quite cathartic as the Irish-chanteuse headed straight to the studio, slowly releasing songs to her MySpace page and eventually walked away with an album full of beautifully sweeping folk songs, full of Hannigan’s trademark hushed vocal style that may have slipped under the radar a bit, but definitely worth your attention.
Key Tracks: Penn Station, Run Chicken Run, Chicken Wire
Sounds Like: A grittier version of Basement Tapes-era The Band
Skinny: With their fourth full-length release, and second for Conor Oberst’s Team Love label, The Felice Brothers have put out their most well thought out and produced record yet. Yonder Is The Clock is filled with their now trademark homespun stories of grifters, drifters and unsavory characters that could easily inhabit their hometown in the Catskills, set to country-folk romps and barroom ballads that have you almost tasting cheap booze and smelling stale liquor.
Key Tracks: Cabbage Town, Big Black Nothing, Slowly (Oh Slowly)
Sounds Like: Bright Eyes meets Tom Petty
Skinny: While Oberst’s prolific songwriting tendencies may rival that of Mr. Mandy Moore, his sophomore effort with the Mystic Valley Band is a collaborative affair, with band members contributing and singing their own songs often making you forget you’re listening to a record that has the wordy, singer-songwriter’s name attached to it. The album itself is chocked full of breezy, ’70s influenced country and folk-rock, mixed with the aughts indie-sensibility.