HT Staff’s 25 Best Albums Of 2011: #20 – #16

Here at Hidden Track, compiling our end of the year list of the 25 best albums has been eerily similar to the process of devising another top 25 list – the college football top 25. When we started four years ago, we attempted to devise a quantitative methodology that systematized the rankings and took the individual biases out of the equation, while still incorporating the collective views of everyone involved at HT. Well, that was sort of our BCS. This year we’re going back to the old school and running it AP Top 25 style. In other words, every writer on staff submitted their own personal top 25, and then we compiled the final list based  on a simple tally of votes.

Who knows, there may still be a few kinks to work through in future editions, but you can rest assured of one thing that will always make our list a cut above the rest: we consider everything. Our submissions include all styles of music from bluegrass to jazz, jam to indie, electronica to rap, as well as everything in between (but sorry Nefertiti’s Fjord it just wasn’t the year for lesbian-Afro-Norwegian-funk music). At the end of the day, we’re a music blog. Everyone is encouraged to write about what they like with no motives, no editorial biases, and no strings attached. We hope that comes across in our picks.

We’ve hit day two of our week-long countdown of the 25 best albums of 2011, let’s check out numbers 20 through 16…

20) Danger Mouse & Daniele LuppiRome

 

Key Tracks: Black, Two Against One, Season’s Trees

Sounds Like: Soundtrack to a ’60s Spaghetti Western that was never made.

The Skinny: Years in the making, Rome pairs famed Italian composer Daniele Luppi with Grammy-winning producer Danger Mouse as the two pay tribute to the Spaghetti Western soundtracks from the ’60s and ’70s created by Ennio Morricone. Luppi and Danger Mouse brought together a number of the performers Morricone utilized for such legendary soundtracks as A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and paired them with current stars Norah Jones and Jack White, who lend their distinctive vocals to three tracks a piece. Between the gorgeous instrumentals with tinges of psychedelia and the dramatic vocal tracks, Rome is a wonderful album that leaves the visuals up to the listener.

– Scott Bernstein

19) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.It’s A Corporate World

Key Track: When I Close My Eyes

Sounds Like:  The soundtrack to a Detroit Pistons championship party.

The Skinny: Here’s the deal: stupid band name, brilliant album. Ok, maybe a brilliant name too, but the duo of Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein’s rhythmic mix of electro space rock, catchy hooks and whistle-along melodies is hard to argue with. Their debut LP joins drum machines and acoustic elements with eclectic samples shaping moments that make you close your eyes and nod along and others that make you want to hop up and throw a fist in the air. The glammed up rock take on the recently late great Gil-Scott Heron’s We Almost Lost Detroit from the hometown pair is an instant anthemic sing along. It’s a predictably quirky album that’s equally unpredictably full of quality pop songs and inventive songwriting.

– Andy Kahn

18) tUnE-YarDsw h o k i l l

Key Tracks: Gangsta, Bizness, Doorstep

Sounds Like: Ten tracks of socio-poitical-minded controlled chaos

The Skinny: tUnE-YarDs founder and frontwoman Merill Garbus won raves from nearly all corners of the blogosphere, and even from the mainstream, upon the release of the project’s second album, w h o k i l l. Merill’s powerful vocals and layer upon layer of catchy, percussive beats combined with one brilliant bass line after another from bassist Nate Brenner make w h o k i l l one of the best albums of 2011.

– Scott Bernstein

17) Tom WaitsBad As Me

Key Tracks: Get Lost, New Year’s Eve, Chicago

Sounds Like: Screamin Jay Hawkins meets Gershwin over bourbon.

For all of the gusto, the guests – Flea’s here; Keef is a lot of fun; Ribot is his excitably virtuosic self; hey, I know some of those Preservation Hall Jazz Band guys! – and the critical giddiness that greets any new Tom Waits release, this is direct, cleanly-stated Waits, free of clutter and chaos. That’s a relative statement, of course; Waits is a master of artfully arranged clutter and chaos. But even when there’s a lot going on in one of these all-too-Waitsian compositions – about love, about failure, about life, about an old crank singing about such things – they sit there like roughly burnished gems, easy to admire.

– Chad Berndtson

16) DawesNothing Is Wrong

Key Tracks: If I Wanted Someone, So Well, Million Dollar Bill, A Little Bit Of Eveything

Sounds Like: A timewarp to 1970’s Los Angeles

The Skinny: It may be hard to comprehend but the classic sound created on CSN&Y’s Deja Vu is over 40 years old. Four decades. Even now it’s a timeless rock classic. Here in present day 2011, Los Angeles rockers Dawes have created an album that embodies the spirit of that California folk-rock sound in a genuine and modern take. A complete record from front to back Nothing Is Wrong is filled with gritty electric guitar and soothing piano melody that evoke memories of a very familiar and comfortable sound in a completely modern way. With a gritty edge that at times, almost as if David Gilmour were guesting on the record, to the gentle sensibilities of Jackson Browne, the album is a perfect example of drawing inspiration from rock’s rich history and doing so effortlessly.

-Eric Wyman

Check back tomorrow for #15 – #11.

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One Response

  1. Glad to see Rome on this list. That album is top notch from beginning to end. Been looking forward to this list! Love to see it posted earlier in the day as I’m listening to each album in the order it was posted.

    Cheers,
    Eddie

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