The Year's Best Local Albums

It may seem greedy, but we couldn't confine ourselves to fewer than 13 riotous / melodious / prodigious records

BROTHER ALI
The Undisputed Truth
Rhymesayers

"If I don't set the world ablaze, trust it ain't 'cause of nothing I did." From the first really truthful work of art to have the phrase "Freedom Ain't Free" attached to it, Brother Ali summarizes the main thing that made The Undisputed Truth one of the greatest rap records in Twin Cities history: Complacency is like a toxin to him. Everything he spits on here is a full-throttle mic assault designed to justify his reputation—which means he's going to have to bring it even harder on the next record, if that's possible. —Nate Patrin

KILL THE VULTURES
Midnight Pine
Jib Door

Expanding the hip-hop dictionary, Kill the Vultures have seemingly tossed out the old notion of building a few bars out of samples and looping it to run throughout the verses. Instead, the production on Midnight Pine follows expertly mined, smoky post-bop samples as they swoon and careen, obliterating the bar-length obligation and underscoring Crescent Moon's beatnik musings without forcing his cadence. Garnished with just a sprig of crackle and dirge, this is weird territory for modern hip hop, but a viable out for poets and jazzbos eager for a beat and heavy on the flow. —Christopher Matthew Jensen

THE PINES
Sparrows in the Bell
Red House

Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt must have some seriously ancient bones under their skin. It seems like if they pressed hard enough on the brass strings of their guitars, they could get their fingers to bleed dirt. But Sparrows in the Bell exhibits a considerably lighter touch than that. Ramsey's voice is a burnt-out husk, while Huckfelt's is warmer, but more reserved. Together, they've crafted a record that restlessly breathes the spirit of true roots music—no mean feat for a duo that's only begun their meander down that dusty highway. —Steve McPherson

ROMANTICA
America
2024

Few albums released locally this year are capable of garnering such widespread appreciation as Romantica's America. With lush string arrangements and delicate vocal melodies, Romantica appeal just as much to the Cities 97 crowd as they do to alt-country aficionados and folk revivalists, a testament to lead singer Ben Kyle's dexterous songwriting. From the up-tempo shuffle of "National Side" to the Springsteen-channeling slow-burner "Ixcatan," Kyle is adept at writing narrative lyrics and expressing sensitivity without turning on the cheese or being overtly poetic, making America beautiful in its simplicity. —Andrea Myers

FOG
Ditherer
Lex

Andrew Broder's latest release shows that he hasn't given up on making sound collages altogether, he's just using much larger pieces: Instead of blending a wide variety of samples and distortion to create a song, he's deploying a vast array of songs to make an album. What Ditherer lacks in consistency, it more than makes up for in thrilling inventiveness and raw energy. Restlessly combining wicked, dirty grooves, inflated multi-tracked vocals, and genuine rock heroics with sonic dead ends and hidden passageways, Fog has created a crazed hedge maze of a record—one I'm happy to run through exuberantly, even if I never find my way out. —Sarah Askari

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Abzorbr, Capable of Teetering; Ben Glaros, Lovesong Roulette; Building Better Bomb, Freak out Squares; Charlie Parr, Jubilee; City on the Make, In the Name of Progress; Cloud Cult, The Meaning of 8; The Deaf, This Bunny Bites; Fantastic Merlins, Look Around; Gay Beast, Disrobics; Little Man, Soulful Automatic; Low, Drums & Guns; Mystery Palace, Flags Forward; Painted Saints, The Bricks Might Breathe Again; Red Fox Grey Fox, From the Land of Bears, Ice and Rock; Roma di Luna, Find Your Way Home; Seawhores, Opus Magnanimous; Vicious Vicious, Parade

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