Chris Dumpert of Mpls.:
1 Superorganism, 7th Street Entry. The eight-member internet collective-turned-indie rock band was as engaging live as the earworm songs they create. Their matching raincoats, projected background visuals and energetic dancing made for a memorable Twin Cities debut.
2 Gang of Youths, "Go Farther in Lightness." This is the best band you haven't heard of yet. The Australian group writes epic anthem-like songs that remind me of early Springsteen, U2 and Arcade Fire.
3 "Meet Me in the Bathroom" by Lizzy Goodman. This book uses firsthand accounts to provide an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the early 2000s' New York City music scene that spawned the Strokes, Interpol, TV on the Radio and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. The best part is how often Har Mar Superstar appears throughout the book.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Bettye LaVette, "Things Have Changed." Bob Dylan's songs have been interpreted by many but no one has made you rethink and understand his songs better than this R&B vet. She inhabits these songs, bringing warmth, soulfulness and new meaning to Dylan's words. Props to producer Steve Jordan. Brilliant.
2 "Can Jack White Change His Stripes," Rolling Stone. Writer Brian Hiatt found White to be a fascinating contrarian, full of idiosyncrasies, contradictions and self-awareness. Best quote: "With me, you get the extremes of every single emotion. Happiness, joy, jealousy, anger, excitement, passion, lust."
3 Jennifer Grimm, Crooners. The versatile Twin Cities singer offered a funky version of Bill Withers' "Use Me" with a deftly rapped reading of Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy" in mid-song. An inspired and surprising mashup.