There was an interesting social experiment happening at the social news website Reddit yesterday. In an effort to gauge the network’s taste in music, I proposed that each person upvote their favorite album of 2009. If their choice was not listed, they could submit, as a comment, their best-of pick which could then be upvoted by others. To keep the voting civil, the only rule was that you could only downvote selections which were either not released in 2009 or were completely irrelevant. Periodically, I kept count of roughly the top 30 albums and after 24 hours elapsed I finalized the results.
Here are the top 28 albums selected by the /r/Music subreddit:
As a whole, I think the list is pretty good — representing a wide range of genres, a varying degree of commerical successes, and acts all over the critics spectrum. From a rock & roll supergroup (Crooked Vultures) to an experimental explicitive-name duo from England (Fuck Buttons) and almost everything in between, I feel that this is a good consensus of the year in music. Even more impressive I think is the quality of music that’s listed, as there are only a few acts I would describe as “throw away bands”.
So how did we get to this list? I started the poll at roughly 8:00pm PST in hopes to generate an initial buzz from late-night American/Canadian redditors in the hopes that it could be listed on the front page of r/Music by the morning. After about four hours it was the #1 listing on /r/Music where I then proceeded to take down the initial vote tally:
Due to the timing, I think it’s safe to assume that this list corresponds to the tastes of the American and Canada music listener. Notice that even as early as four hours, the top three (Phoenix, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear) have already begun to separate from the pack. Also, I think the Canadians had a hand in propping up one of their favorites by giving Metric such high early marks. I respect Emily Haines and her musically dense discography (Broken Social Scene, solo with the Soft Skeletons, and of course Metric), but after listening to her latest Fantasies I just can’t justify it being in the top five of anyone’s list. The second fact that I found surprising is that never in my wildest dreams would I expect the oddball hyperactive music of Dan Deacon and the insanely experimental Fuck Buttons to be remotely near the top twenty albums. My initial thoughts were that the reddit crowd would align itself early with uniquely sounding yet relatively safe acts — you know, stuff like Passion Pit, The Decemberists, and Girls (which surprisingly never made a splash) — but to have these acts that would even be described as fringe from the most adept music lover break in to the top 25 this early made me think that this list had to potential to shatter my expectations.
The second count was recorded at 3:00am PST and its purpose was to gauge how the early morning European redditors would alter the landscape. Below are the results, with the heavy movers bolded (black = up, red = down):
As you can see the top six remained more or less in tact. I was surprised to find that almost all the European acts remained pretty much stationary at their positions (maybe this is a testament how geographical boundaries are almost entirely erased nowadays when it comes to music). The one exception to this rule seems to be the Norwegian electro-duo Röyksopp bursting onto the scene. Similar to the Canadians with Metric, I feel like the Scandinavians are responsible for this one (I remember during my time in Denmark how popular Röyksopp was), however I could be reading too much into it.
Lady Gaga began her rightful slide after it was realized that The Fame was released in 2008. Also, this marks the beginning of the end for personal favorites The Avett Brothers and Neko Case. Silversun Pickups also begin the toggle from top-to-bottom while Them Crooked Vultures sneakily slid up higher.
The third count was taken at 1:00pm PST in hopes to wrap up the European redditor votes before the late-afternoon East Coast American rush began.
Here is where Kid Cudi emerges out of nowhere to position himself in the middle of the pack where he ultimately winds up. It seems like all hip-hop acts (Mos Def, Raekwon) congregated near the middle and just couldn’t seem to break free. Also, Neko Case is trying to Hold On, Hold On, representing the last country act in the bunch. Due to nefarious downvoting, polarizing Brit rockers Muse begin their downward slide while Silversun Pickups fell back down to the bottom. Things are beginning to solidify here, with only the last third up for grabs.
The next tally was taken nineteen hours after the poll began, and here things are starting to become stagnant:
The top twelve remain almost identical with the resilient Silversun Pickups rising back up. Even the volatile bottom third of the list seem to have found some semblance of order. At this point, very few votes are further cast and submissions trickle down to almost nothing.
The next picture shows the final tally before the greasemonkey script to eliminate all the downvotes was enabled and the final arrangement was settled upon.
As you can see it is almost 100% the same, with only minor jostling for position. This brings us back to the final result post-Greasemonkey script:
The only thing I want to mention is the number of downvotes recorded so that you can see which is the most hated band. Proportionally speaking, without a doubt that title is held by Muse. When downvotes were included, they dropped completely out of contention; however, with them removed, they spring into the top ten. Secondly, the least downvoted act was the Dark Was the Night Compilation benefiting AIDS research. I wonder who those three cold hearted bastards were who downvoted that…
One note about the tallies: Reddit does have a tendency to vary the up/down votes depending on when exactly you are viewing the page, so the results are final within a certain undetermined margin or error. Also, there was no way I could take into consideration the same person voting for multiple albums. Needless to say, this also introduces some error in generating the list.
Here are some of my final thoughts:
- I know this has been a down year for country, but come on, not ONE album on the list?! Both Neko Case and Avett Brothers are deserving and I personally liked the sophomore album from The Dutchess and The Duke (which received not even a mention)
- I heard a lot of people complain about the lack of metal in the list. I am by no means a metal expert or even a consistent metal listener, but I found it odd that Sunn O))) didn’t receive a single vote. I mean they should be in the running just for their crazy live act.
- I found it mildly surprising that no “glo-fi” acts made a splash in the polls. The only representation was Washed Out and Neon Indian who were late entries, each not receiving more than three votes. Also, there were no mentions of my personal favorites Ducktails and Memory Tapes.
- I was happy with the placement of my top album Flaming Lips‘ Embryonic. I’ve seen this album either underrepresented or suspiciously absent from most of the lists out there. I really think that not only should this album be mentioned as best of the year but best of the decade. I’m not even a Lips fan, but, to quote a comment on reddit, “this album makes me want to tear off my clothes and burn the world — in a good way”.
- My list of disappointed inclusions: Royksopp, Metric, Muse, Kid Cudi, Silversun Pickups, Andrew Bird, Wilco.
- My list of groups who were ranked too high: Them Crooked Vultures, Passion Pit, The Decemberists
- I predicted the top three in order, but unfortunately I can’t prove this (you’re going to have to trust me). I figured Phoenix was going to take the crown because it’s catchy as hell, Animal Collective was going to be runner because some people don’t get it, and Grizzly Bear was going to round out the typical top three.
Finally, I created a grooveshark playlist so that you can check out a couple of songs from each group mentioned: http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/playlist/R+Music+Top+Albums+Of+2009/21681630
Well that’s it! If you have any questions or if you notice any trends or if you want to throw in your two cents, feel free to add a comment to this entry! Until next year Reddit!