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Chris Riemenschneider's top 10 national albums

Two of the year's bestselling albums made the cut this year, albeit just barely. Where Taylor and Queen Bey made artful, meaningful and mighty catchy mega-pop, though, a few artists who've steadily ascended through indie circles came full circle after the COVID-19 lull with creatively bursting albums (Spoon, Big Thief, Angel Olsen, Beach House), while Black Thought of the Roots and Plains co-leader Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee thrillingly cut loose with new collaborators.

1. Spoon, "Lucifer on the Sofa."

2. Big Thief, "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You."

3. Plains, "I Walked With You a Ways."

4. Black Thought, "Cheat Codes."

5. Angel Olsen, "Big Time."

6. SZA, "SOS."

7. Beach House, "Once Twice Melody."

8. Soul Glo, "Diaspora Problems."

9. Taylor Swift, "Midnights."

10. Beyoncé, "Renaissance."

Charlie Smith, Brian Vanderwerf and Jeff Johnson contribute to Eleganza’s “Water Valley High,” the best Minnesota album of 2022.
Charlie Smith, Brian Vanderwerf and Jeff Johnson contribute to Eleganza’s “Water Valley High,” the best Minnesota album of 2022.

Richard Tsong-Taatrii, Star Tribune

Jon Bream's top 10 national albums

Once again, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift dominated the world of popular music. With their deeply creative minds and resourceful wells of collaborators, they regularly redefine the cultural zeitgeist and manage to transform their new albums into events. Both issued substantial, provocative and outstanding albums in 2022.

Their albums were ambitious and long, as were others on my best-of list. Whether personal (Zach Bryan, SZA, Ari Lennox, Angel Olsen) or political (Doug Wamble), artists had a lot to say, with profound thoughts and unbridled passion — and often little regard for commercial potential.

1. Beyoncé, "Renaissance."

2. Rosalia, "Motomami."

3. Zach Bryan, "American Heartbreak."

4. Taylor Swift, "Midnights."

5. SZA, "SOS."

6. Angel Olsen, "Big Time."

7. Wet Leg, "Wet Leg."

8. Doug Wamble, "Blues in the Present Tense."

9. Ari Lennox, "Age/Sex/Location."

10. Lainey Wilson, "Bell Bottom Country."

Chris Riemenschneider's top 10 Minnesota albums

Some of these records were made over the pandemic and benefited from digital/distanced recording technology and cooped-up energy, including those by Hippo Campus, Joe Rainey, Ricki Monique and Heiruspecs. Even better, though, were the LPs mostly captured live by stage-tested musicians all in one room, pre- or post-lockdown, including Eleganza's Mississippi-muddied triumph and Trampled by Turtles' pairing with producer Jeff Tweedy. In either case, hearing all this new material played live this year was unbeatable.

1. Eleganza, "Water Valley High."

2. Trampled by Turtles, "Alpenglow."

3. Ricki Monique, "Good Seeds."

4. Hippo Campus, "LP3."

5. Joe Rainey, "Niineta."

6. Heiruspecs, "Pretty Random but What Happened to the Heiruspecs?"

7. Robin Kyle, "The Rubicon Is a Red River."

8. Chastity Brown, "Sing to the Walls."

9. The Cactus Blossoms, "One Day."

10. Miloe, "Gaps."