Chris Dumpert of Minneapolis:
1 Strand of Oaks, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” So fun to watch frontman Timothy Showalter’s Cheshire cat grin every time he looked at his backing band, which included Jason Isbell, Amanda Shire and members of My Morning Jacket.
2 Stella Donnelly, Turf Club. This whip-smart Australian singer-songwriter used her humor and sly banter to charm the crowd. However, it was her mesmerizing voice and ferocious, insightful and biting lyrics that made the gig so memorable.
3 Oh Pep, 7th St. Entry. Another admirable act from Australia, this female duo played great indie-pop from their new album “I Wasn’t Thinking About You.” At times, I just wanted to close my eyes and enjoy the vocal harmonies, but they are such excellent musicians I often found myself just staring at their fingers plucking their instruments.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Lizzo’s attitude. While Prince sang about getting love from New York critics, Lizzo disses critics on Twitter (cuz she got a lukewarm review in Pitchfork). Her new “Cuz I Love You” may not be her greatest album (though the tunes should be potent live), but you have to admire her consistent stand-up-for-yourself attitude, which she’d demonstrated with her earlier empowering anthems.
2 Aretha Franklin’s Pulitzer Prize. Like Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Hank Williams and other music gods, she was recognized with a special music citation. Twelve others have received this honor; she is the first woman.
3 “Mamma Mia!” Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. The Abba songs bring this piffle of a musical alive, and Kersten Rodau steals the show as Donna, especially with the knockout “The Winner Takes It All.”