Personal Bests

The Year's Local Favorites

Some songs have a profound physiological effect on people. Early this year, local label impresario Matt St-Germain and I knocked back a few gin and tonics to prepare for the audio bombast of an Andrew W.K. show.

"Party til you puke!" sang Mr. W.K.

I partied.

Matt puked.

Point is, everyone reacts individually to the music that surrounds us. And our responses to local music seem to vary even more than our opinions about national acts. Because not every Michael Yonkers or Barlow/Petersen/Wivinus single is available at Best Buy or plays over the sound system at First Avenue, Twin Cities music fans are often exposed to different things. That's why this year, instead of compiling my own top ten local albums, I asked City Pages' freelance and staff writers to talk about a personal favorite--the one local album that made 2002 a little more bearable. Whether you like their choices or not, we hope you won't lose your lunch. --Melissa Maerz


Atmosphere, God Loves Ugly (Rhymesayers)

Slug toys with rhyme patterns rather than sculpting narrative; Ant winnows beats to their jagged essence instead of spinning out soundscapes. And if the results sometimes sound brutal and minimalist, well, that's what hip-hop formalism is all about. God Loves Ugly is, above all, an exercise in form, more concerned with honing craft than defining persona. But the reason those tonal shifts seem to provide insight into the muddy waters of S. Daley's mind is the same reason all the critics love him in New York, even at his most abstract. He diddles his is-they-is-or-is-they-ain't autobiographical details so nimbly that even those MCs who could whoop his ass in a battle sound two-dimensional. --Keith Harris


Barlow/Petersen/Wivinus, The Transparent World (Hand/Eye)

Roll over, John Lee Hookah! Or at least get rolling. This is the real folk/blues/psych/ drone/avant-soundtrack for the Honey, I Can't Find the Bong Again set. These esteemed git-fiddlers take a break from their various other projects--and expansive effects-pedal collections--for this between-the-genre-cracks acoustic ramble through the verdant byways of their collective subconscious. Rich Barlow, Jesse Petersen, and Erik Wivinus generate the kind of luscious, slow-burning, string-driven sonics that could easily set the elves and the faeries to partner-dancing around the bonfire. In a burg where half-baked improvisation is too often the rule, The Transparent World stands every bit as fully baked as its creators might have been when they made it. --Rod Smith


DVS1 and Christian James, DVS1 and Christian James, Live 1-26-02 (self-released)

Christian James and DVS1 are local electronica's odd couple. Although they love the same game, each has a strikingly different method of playing it. James's quirked-out house track selections and frenetic game face make for a highly entertaining contrast with DVS's bullying techno bangers and dark demeanor. Their live album captures the duo (who share a studio) seizing the Quest Ascot Room last January with springy beats and evil basslines. Stocked exclusively at Vital Vinyl, the CD consistently sold out over the course of this year--a notable accomplishment given that most patrons of record stores seek solely wax. On disc, it's more yin and yang for your bang. --Jen Boyles


Front Porch Swingin' Liquor Pigs, Half Cocked and Fully Loaded (Neckless)

When you stumble into the murk of the taverns where these guys play, your hope isn't just to find warmth or sweet liquid oblivion. You want transcendence, something so rare in local CDs that you almost forget what it feels like. But as with Song of Zarathustra's caterwaul of guitars or the Autumn Leaves' pastoral pop, this second helping from the West Bank Pogues of jug rock is no imitation of life. Tulip Sweet's Tom Siler and studio veteran Tom Herbers perfectly distill the band's live rollick, welcoming guests such as Dave Ray (who reminds us why he's missed) to an old-time, multigenerational picking party that any punk would love. Sounds like the hootenanny of their lives. --Peter Scholtes


The Hidden Chord, The Captain and His Entourage (Level Plane)

In the year garage punk broke, the Hidden Chord broke up. And the neo-beat boys' finale is as high in concept as it is in amplification--a hyperactive brainstorm of pop-culture commentary and travelogue, with the sweetest of Lynchian twists. This time around, the quartet hauls some tech-geek toys into the clubhouse, fusing sequencers and samples with a signature 4/4 guitar bounce and acrobatic vocals. Lyrically, the album is harder to decode than a Ouija board: Who the hell is "the captain" anyway? Yet, like the best mysteries, this imaginative release is worth revisiting in search of clues. --Kate Silver



Eminem may have dismissed the "20 million other white rappers" who emerged in the wake of his success, but Ice-Rod could actually give Slim cause for worry. A recent performance at the Entry saw the diminutive rapper in commanding control of the stage, despite the fact that he was hobbled by crutches and a CD player that routinely fucked up his backing tracks. But his rhymes are the real star, alternating between the grimly hilarious and the flat-out absurdist. On his best song, Ice-Rod hands out paper, tells you how to fold airplanes, then castigates you for wasting paper and demands that you place the planes in recycling bins. This record's formal release has been much delayed--but that's a good thing. Until Ice Rod's 7-inch hits all the stores, you'll have to let him blow your mind in person. --Nick Phillips

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