Mike Wohnoutka of Mpls.:
1 A Tribute to the Replacements, Turf Club. Very cool to see so many young musicians carry the ’Mats torch: Loki’s Folly, Last Import and Sapphire. But it was the veteran John Swardson who stole the show with his sincere version of “Here Comes a Regular.”
2 “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Rami Malek completely embodies Freddie Mercury in this Oscar-worthy performance. It’s a powerful and funny movie that focuses on Queen and its music. The film appropriately ends with the quartet’s rousing Live Aid performance. Remarkable.
3 Brandi Carlile, State Theatre. She was full of energy and heart for her Minneapolis finale — and final show of 2018. The lush string quartet and tight band behind her stellar voice made her anthemic songs soar. Highlights: “The Story” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.”
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 The Jam Before Christmas, the Dakota. The Peterson Family trotted out three generations of musicians (some as young as 8 or 9 years old) to jazz up holiday songs. Highlights: Ricky and Paul Peterson doing a funky blues reading of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and a jazzy jam on “We Three Kings.”
2 Joyann Parker, “Silent Night.” No, this isn’t the traditional carol but rather a soul-baring original wallowing in the sadness of spending Christmas alone. Easily the most blue Yule tune by a Minnesotan since Prince’s “Another Lonely Christmas.”
3 JD McPherson, “Socks.” The Oklahoma retro rocker injects spirit, heart and humor into a nifty collection of holiday originals.