Some of them have been making albums going back to the 1980s, when vinyl still ruled. Some of them weren't even born until the 2000s, just as vinyl started making a comeback.
Whatever their age, all the artists featured in this annual midyear roundup of Minnesota-made music clearly share a belief in albums as an ageless artform — whatever physical or digital form they happen to be played on.
Forget Taylor Swift's celeb ex-boyfriends. This U.K.-schooled Bemidji native — who's fast becoming Minnesota's most promising indie-pop star — tugs our heartstrings and funny bones — singing about much more relatable bozo beaus on her hyper-catchy, super-smart second EP. Like the guy who ghosted her to play "Fortnite" ("Your Internet Sucks"). Or the dudes who still live with Mom post-COVID ("Boys Who Kiss You in Their Car"). The real-life Berit Dybing refreshingly acts her age throughout the no-filler six-song set. What a time to be 25.
Heiruspecs, 'Pretty Random But What Happened to the Heiruspecs'
With nods to gray hairs growing too fast and other middle-aged woes, the first album in eight years by Minnesota's first — and still best — live hip-hop band sets out to prove rap music isn't just a young man's game. Mission accomplished. MCs Felix and Muad'dib's angsty lyrics in tracks like "Thundersounds" could make a 20-year-old sit down, while the often manic and tensely tight grooves show the uncanny chemistry of musicians who've played together since high school (shout out, St. Paul Central!). Technically issued late last year, the LP is finally seeing physical release with a July 22 party at Icehouse in Minneapolis.
Maria Isa, 'Capitolio'
Between winning the seat for Minnesota's House District 65B in November and being sworn in at the State Capitol in January, the "SotaRico" (Minnesota + Puerto Rico) hip-hop vet from St. Paul's West Side squeezed in making an eight-song EP with producer Ymmi to prove she's not bowing out of the rap game. She leaves the political statements to her new day job and cuts loose here in breezy, bouncy, braggadocios jams such as "Bad Chicks" and "First Class Flights."
Juice Lord, '8th Inning: Luv Vs. Passion'
"Health is wealth," this St. Paul rapper emphasizes deep into his baseball-game-themed full-length album (his first), which is rich in positive invocations like that. Malik Curtis, 27, is a refreshing contrast to other MCs his age only in it for the money, and he has more in common musically and personally with Jay-Z and Nas than his age group's sleepier stars. "I'm better than the last me," is another standout line from the record's emo centerpiece, "Blessed Up." Can't wait to see how much better this up-and-comer gets.
Loki's Folly, 'Sisu'
The cutesy factor that inherently comes with underage family bands like this Twin Cities punk trio is ripped to pieces on this hard-shredding debut album. Long in the works with an A-team of Minnesota rock producers (including the late Ed Ackerson), the record finds singer/guitarist Annie, 21, and her sister/drummer Nissa, 16, operating at full tilt — and full throat — rawk-and-roar capacity from the ironically titled opening track "The Love Song" through to the closer "Beaches and Peaches," each with echoes of Sleater-Kinney and current age peers the Linda Lindas.
Sarah Morris, 'Here's to You'
There are pin-drop, tear-jerk moments on this award-winning Twin Cities folkie's fifth album, like the winter-burdened ballad "Staggering." And there are lively, lovingly layered moments of lush Americana twang that lean on her long-cemented backing band, like the summer-breezy "You Are (Champagne on a Wednesday)." In either case, Morris ups her John Prine-ian wordplay and continues to shine and soothe like a Norah Jones in Midwestern flannel on vocals.
Run Westy Run, 'Beyond Reason'
I dare you to find a rock record this year where it sounds like the band is having more fun than this. After a messy run toward indie-rock stardom via Peter Buck- and Grant Hart-produced albums, the brotherly Westies spent most of the 2000s on hiatus and a lot of the 2010s just having fun. The latter era found them woodshedding loads of new Stooges/Velvet Underground sleaze-rock riffs and melodic hooks built on playful banter that they finally put to tape via one fast and feisty session in the heart of the COVID-19 lockdown. All kinds of exhaling is going on here.
The Scarlet Goodbye, 'Hope's Eternal'
A friendship that blossomed into a time-killing COVID recording project, ex-Soul Asylum guitarist Dan Murphy and veteran producer and songwriter Jeff Arundel didn't set out to have one of the most buzz-worthy new rock bands in town. Not at their ages (early 60s). They've done just that, though, through classic songwriting chemistry and tasteful know-how on their group's debut LP, offering many lushly arranged, contemplative heart-tuggers as "Rosary" and "Fresh New Hell" alongside a few fun barroom rockers like "Sandy."
Turn Turn Turn, 'New Rays From an Old Sun'
Where their debut was more Nashville-meets-Greenwich Village, the second LP by this easy-charming trifecta of Twin Cities singer/songwriters sounds entrenched in Los Angeles of the '60s and '70s. Adam Levy of local Honeydogs fame channels paisley pop in "Dopamine Blues" and Buffalo Springfield in "Hymn of the Hater." Savannah Smith goes Gram Parsons-style cosmic country in "Powder." And Barb Brynstad's "Stranger in a Strange Land" suggests she could stand in for Christine McVie.
Cory Wong, 'The Power Station Tour (East Coast)'
It's June already, and Wong has released two albums with 17 to 19 songs apiece on them. So a pretty average year for the Twin Cities guitar-funk maestro. Both LPs are live albums from different legs of the tour for last year's studio album "Power Station," but the high energy on each vividly shows why Wong and his band — cute name alert: the Wongnotes! — have become an international touring attraction with their Minneapolis Sound-infused funk-rock instrumentals such as "Smooth Move" and "Direct Flyte." It's splitting hairs choosing between the East Coast collection over West Coast, but this one features wizardly Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten on eight tracks. Kind of an unfair advantage.