Turn It Up: 10 local albums from 2019 that are must-adds to your queue

As always, this year saw a lot of remarkable music come out of Minnesota, and you probably didn’t catch all of it. We’ve rounded up 10 local albums released in 2019 that you should definitely queue up.

Charlie Parr “Charlie Parr”

The album art for Charlie Parr’s self-titled record is a precise visual portrayal of the stream of string-picking and storytelling you’re about to sink into. It’s a loose sketch, not hemmed and hawed over. Anyone familiar with Parr’s discography will know this isn’t new territory for the Duluth-based artist. He returns to us steeped in his greatest songwriting strength: familial warmth. His tales of hounds and booze and falling out of trees gently pull us in like shared embraces between reunited loved ones on Thanksgiving. The record doesn’t demand anything but a few moments of our quiet attention, and it’s well worth the time.  –Jesse Wiza


Remo Drive “Natural, Everyday Degradation”

Remo Drive are doing the Lord’s work. On a steamy summer evening in July, brothers Erik and Stephen Paulson achieved what many acts only dream of with a Minnesota audience: they coerced them into actually dancing. Pushing tightly against the stage, hundreds of fans belted along to the energetic set as they thrashed through a lineup of pop-punk gems. The band signed to Epitaph Records in 2018, and “Natural, Everyday Degradation” satiates an emo-revivalist’s craving for someone to admit that, no, everything is not okay, but we’ll shred in our parents’ Bloomington basement and try to find some joy in the everyday.  –Jesse Wiza


Lady Midnight “Death Before Mourning”

Like a homemade batch of mole poblano, Lady Midnight’s “Death Before Mourning” has a little bit of everything. Her song “P((o))WR”—a sweet, smooth ode to strong women—melts into bitter vocal processing on “PRTN CTRL pt. 1.” Production assists from MMYYKK, Ziyad, Medium Zach, and others unite like spice rack soulmates. And the album is not without some heat. The jazzy “Catorce” cranks out smoke, while “Fake News” fires off a frenzied, pitched-down summons to the Yoruba goddess Oyá. This release is nuanced, labor-intensive—having taken Lady Midnight five years to make—and altogether one of the best albums of the year.  –Cecilia Johnson


Nur-D “Songs About Stuff”

Winner of this year’s City Pages Picked to Click poll, Nur-D has paved a quick and powerful path in the hip-hop scene. Rapping only since February 2018, Nur-D started out by winning four consecutive “Shut Up and Rap” contests, which led to an invite to perform at Soundset only three months later. “Songs About Stuff” is Nur-D’s sophomore album and explores a variety of different deep personal topics that include personal trauma, break-ups, toxic masculinity, body positivity, and race, all flavored with Nur-D’s self-proclaimed geek-culture style.  –Marla Khan-Schwartz



26 BATS! “Onyx”

The sophomore album from 26 BATS! isn’t just a collection of songs—it’s a meditation on change, healing, and personal growth. Named for the black stone that wards off negative energy, “Onyx” blends fierce guitar arpeggios, lyrical trumpet lines, and Bailey Cogan’s expressive vocals into 26 BATS!’s signature slippery sound. The album is 26 BATS! at their most confident. Each song changes color when held to the light; the band leaps through key signatures with ease and confronts grief with 26 minutes of magic.  –Colleen Cowie



Humbird “Pharmakon”

After traveling the North Sea to study Nordic and Gaelic folk narratives, Siri Undlin returned to the Midwest to blow dust off the old stories by imbuing them with her own experiences. As Humbird, Undlin manages to bend time backwards and forwards at once. In the melodic Americana and jazz-influenced tracks that comprise her debut album—engineered and mixed by Brian Joseph (Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens) and produced by Shane Leonard (Field Report)—Eve exits Eden and laments modern life in America, Persephone is conjured to reckon with a loss of innocence, and thousands of years are woven together as smoothly as the cycle of the seasons.  –Lydia Moran


Velvet Negroni “Neon Brown”

Jeremy Nutzman has worked on various projects over the years under different monikers, but not until he released “Neon Brown” as Velvet Negroni did he finally feel rooted. Leading up to the album release, Negroni not only spent time recording with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and opening for Tame Impala but became recognized through Kanye West’s collaboration with Kid Cudi, when West used Negroni’s “Waves” as part of “Kids See Ghosts.” Negroni’s album is a combination of chill with funky and psychedelic beats, sprinkled with dub and synth. The album is passionately poetic and gives us a sense that Velvet Negroni has a lot to say—leaving listeners craving even more of his chill, cathartic music.  –Marla Khan-Schwartz


Last Import “Last Import”

We hear Last Import loud and clear. The punchy rock trio—guitarist Emily Bjorke, bassist Grace Baldwin, and drummer Jane Halldorson—dropped their first studio album this year, mixing joy, surf-pop, and Strokes-esque guitar riffs into their strongest project yet. Bjorke’s lead vocals are filled with impressive runs and yells (listen to “Money” and “Per Aspera Ad Astra”), while Baldwin and Halldorson are rock-solid on their instruments. On a larger scale, “Last Import” is a testament to the youth-oriented Twin Cities organizations that have supported the band in one way or another, especially music camp She Rock She Rock and all-ages Burnsville venue The Garage.  –Cecilia Johnson


Dua Saleh “Nūr”

Dua Saleh’s breakout EP “Nūr” opens with the metronome beat that introduces “Sugar Mama,” a minimalist slow jam so funky-sexy that it could make even “Darling Nikki” break into a sweat. The Sudan-born, Rondo-raised rapper/singer worked with producer Psymun (thestand4rd, Dizzy Fae, Bon Iver) on this five-song release that also features Velvet Negroni on the track, “Survival.” The EP garnered national attention—although even Pitchfork admitted you have to see Saleh live to properly appreciate the power of their voice (Saleh identifies as non-binary.) For all its sultry, stormy sonic power, “Nūr” also rewards close listens with witty wordplay that evidences Saleh’s sure sense of humor. “I laugh a lot at things in life that happen,” Saleh told The Current’s Cecilia Johnson in an interview about “Nūr.” “But that’s not the only way to expel your feelings.”  –Jay Gabler


Sass “Chew Toy”

Minneapolis power pop band Sass write sugary pop with a sharp bite. Singer/guitarist Stephanie Jo Murck leads listeners into her songs with plunky, confident guitar riffs—but in the blink of an eye, melodies that start out sweet can mutate into something more gnarly and dissonant. The full-length album from Sass is a dynamic debut from an experienced group of musicians who have lent their talents to the bands Tony Peachka, Tights, and Scrunchies. “Chew Toy” chomps onto topics like desire, toxic relationships, and self-image, throttling them in its teeth.  –Colleen Cowie 


This article was produced as a part of a collaboration between The Growler and The Current, Minnesota’s non-commercial, member-supported radio station playing the best authentic, new music alongside the music that inspired it. Find more great music content at growlermag.com and thecurrent.org.