CRITICS LIVE TO rank, but it's an exhausting vice and I already overindulged before the turn of the millennium. So as you recover from a weekend of apocalyptic doom levied by whatever god you hold dear, allow me to spread 1999's most intriguing local albums over your personal altar, from hip hop to honky-tonk to bloopy-bleep. Take whatever you will into this millennial rapture, my goner brethren--but make a joyful noise on the way.
Accident Clearinghouse, By Blood and Marriage: The Accident Clearinghouse Story (OBT) Indie-pop melodies given hellfire and bluegrass treatments. God's favorite band.
Eason, Via Satellite (Reticulated) Shaggy, lo-fi pop magic from the most underrated fret man in town. Guitar gods might love him.
Empire, Empire (Out Da Basement) Local contenders in the middle school rap revival, with thespian voice characterizations and nifty electro-funk basslines. They love themselves enough for two Gods.
The Glenrustles, Honey, Grease and Neptune (SMA) A surprisingly tuneful, witty, and heartfelt album from a band scenesters had given up on years ago. Show your love, people.
The Hang Ups, Second Story (Restless/Clean) Without ripping off a single riff, the Hang Ups capture what was sweeping and slight about Sixties Byrd-hunting, with an organ-ized sound courtesy of Murmur architects Mitch Easter and Don Dixon. Earthy.
Headshots, Se7en (Rhyme Sayers Entertainment) Slug unloads yet more mental backpack baggage with looser musical straps. Bigtime Jesus complex.
Lily Liver, I've Got You Right Where You Want Me (El Basso) Years in the making (and abandoned when the group broke up this summer), this time capsule from 'Sota pop's passed moment collects the best of a little band that couldn't quite. Rest in peace.
Love-Cars, I'm Friends With All-Stars (No Alternative) God, am I sick of gooey, moody pop, and God, do I enjoy this album. The band betters its emo juniors by disciplining meandering melodies to make songs that stretch yet always snap back.
Low, Secret Name (Kranky) Hymns from three devout Duluthians so settled into their slow aesthetic that this precursor to their Christmas album sounds as classic as the Fifties pop they love. Tight with God, to be sure.
Jake Mandell, Parallel Processes (Worm/Interface) Heavenly Barcalounger breakbeats for eggheads--or any egg into head music.
Mint Condition, Life's Aquarium (Elektra) Proof that these sex gods craft sing-along funk as well as they pump out royalty-generating balladry. Worship the body.
Motion Poets, Lose Your Mind and Come to Your Senses (Igmod) Less Meters without the funk than subtle, musically agnostic jazz with its heart in soulful melodies, not doleful solos. Worship the mind.
The Artist, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (Arista) Sort of the Paisley executive's version of Santana's all-star comeback party, with the best (!) Princely ballads in years and half a dozen bum tracks. God hoped Chuck D's rap would have turned out better than "Kool Thing." It didn't.
The Pushbacks, No Strings Attached (Veto) Great songs in a great, whiny voice, served with meat-and-potatoes twang-punk.
Rank Strangers, Consumption (Veto) A trio now, with leaner, better songs, and lyrics as dense as a chain-wallet version of the Old Testament.
The Short Fuses, 1 (JetStar) Country Eve explodes out of punk Adam's beer gut like the bad TV dinner in Alien.
Sounds of Blackness, Reconciliation (Zinc) Sweeter than Sweet Honey, more up than Up With People, Sounds sound surprisingly hip (and hip hopping) for God shouter-outers.
Stereotype Click, The Underground Embargo (St. Paul Style) Nicely minimalist and eclectic hip-hop prayers and street confessions, with guest spots from Abstract Pack and the Rhyme Sayers. Click priorities, in order: "money, power, and faith." Hope that sits well with the indie-rap deities.