There Goes the Neighborhood

Ten local albums that kept the home fires blazing— then burned down the house


Expressing the social conscience that Slug admits to between songs, P.O.S. is about the only rapper who could get guest star Craig Finn to write like Ian MacKaye. When the MC starts slicing up eyeballs on the very next track, he's merely reminding you he's an artist—shades of Hüsker Dü's "Diane" to offset "Real World" on Metal Circus 23 years ago. P.O.S. is no more a product of his environment than Hüsker, Prince, or the Replacements were, but you can't help but notice how local culture shapes male rockers differently, not so much in their lack of women problems (not hardly) but in their refusal to engage machismo in the usual way, or to view homosexuality as a problem. These things add up in hip hop, making P.O.S.'s juicy, Phife-like flow a rallying point, and not just a new flavor. —Peter S. Scholtes

Tim O'Reagan
Tim O'Reagan
Lost Highway

The test of any classic album is if it plays as well in the morning with coffee as it does at night with whiskey; in the bedroom or car; in the loud or quiet hours. O'Reagan's debut has been with me in every moment imaginable since it was released on House of Mercy Recordings last year, and properly released by Lost Highway this year. His voice reminds me of something a friend of mine wrote about her aging face—"a wizened disaster"—which is to say that most things get more beautiful with age, but some things, like a drummer-turned-unleashed-crooner, get positively translucent. —Jim Walsh

Various Artists
Duluth Does Dylan Revisited

Spinout Records

Bob Dylan has never shown much regard for his birthplace. After all, the now-65-year-old iconoclast didn't bother to play a show in Duluth until 1999. But as this loving tribute album displays, area musicians don't hold the lack of affection against him. Most contributors to this second volume of Duluth-does-Dylan tracks opt to treat the material fairly straight, including earnest takes on "Masters of War" (Hattie Peterson) and "When the Ship Comes In" (Ol' Yeller). But the two standout offerings throw reverence out the window, with Cloud Cult performing a lovely, ethereal version of "Mr. Tambourine Man," and Retribution Gospel Choir transforming Dylan's cryptic "All the Tired Horses" into an epic funk workout. —Paul Demko

Total Fucking Blood
Blaze the Lord
Freedom From Records

The midterms meant it was a bad year for extremity, so the story goes. Maybe so, but let's not have a return to normalcy in our music, thank you. St. Paul's Total Fucking Blood gave us the comforts of implacable, abstract ferocity, and for that they deserve a grateful nation's thanks. Blaze the Lord's 11 tracks are shorter than my commute and as mesmeric as Brazilian children's television. This is distilled music, everything superfluous blasted away, the exposed remnants blown out to absurd proportion. It sounds like it was recorded in your bathroom. There's a teasingly bleak sense of humor at work (the title track, "You Got Serbed"), perfect for another precarious year in a world adrift. —Geoff Cannon

Story of the Sea
Enjoying Fire
Speakerphone Records

Story of the Sea's debut, Enjoying Fire, is eighth grade. It's pool parties. It's making out for the first time as the sweat forms little tributaries in the bends of your knees. It's nostalgia that encompasses the Reagan era and the Cobain generation. It's bubble gum and burliness. It's sweet hooks and giant riffs. It's xylophones that frolic and rhythms that detonate. Enjoying Fire is all grown-up, too—the kind of grown-up that doesn't need Sears-catalog haircuts or herky-jerky keyboard players to be cool. Instead, it simply relies on its three primary players—Adam Prince, Ian Prince, and John McEwen—to strut its stuff and swallow up the entire room as if it always belonged anyway. Even if frontman Adam Prince is talking about love when he sings, "Maybe we feel that way because we think we should, and that's no good" on "Bubble Gum," you can't help but want to shake off all the kitsch and irony, and rock out like a grownup who isn't afraid of messing up her Cost Cutters coif. —Molly Priesmeyer

Awesome Snakes
Crustacean Records

Just when you thought internet-dork pseudo-viral D-movie memes had completely destroyed the comedy potential of snake-related activities forever, Annie and Danny from the Soviettes come out with the most aggressively ridiculous local record of the year: a bass-drums duo (plus occasional keyboard) that plays songs largely about snakes and/or things that are awesome. An example of the former: "Snakes vs. Jerks"; an example of the latter: "It Would Be Awesome If We Weren't Here." It sounds like the bastard child of the Adolescents and the B-52's and makes the Ramones' first album seem about as punk as Tarkus. Plus, the cover looks like Motley Crüe's Too Fast for Love as drawn by a 13-year-old. I'm with P.O.S., who prefaces a guest spot ("P.O.S. vs. Awesome Snakes") with a declaration—"I got a name for people who don't like snakes: Fucker." —Nate Patrin

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