Nationalistic

Our music writers pick the yearís national bests.

Surreal & DJ Balance, Future Classic (Hip-Hop Is Music). Those who claim that hip-hop is dead probably haven't heard the debut album from Surreal & DJ Balance. Future Classic is full of head-nodding breakbeats, intelligent lyrics and wicked turntablism -- something that's been missing from most modern hip-hop. If you're wondering what hip-hop should sound like, give this a listen. -- Salazar-Moreno

Tiga, Sexor (Pias). Tiga lifts noises from early trance and techno records to create dark disco that alternates delightfully between groovy and goofy. Analog synths, thudding bass and Tiga's warm baritone vocals will seduce even the most rhythm-challenged dancing feet. Extra points for clever covers of Public Enemy, Nine Inch Nails and Talking Heads. -- Eyl

What Made Milwaukee Famous, Trying to Never Catch Up (Barsuk). While the ingredients of this frothy-headed brew include power pop, indie rock and new wave, a blend of artistic spices gives the Austin ale its refreshing kick. With the help of smart lyrics and sassy keys, sincere little pop songs evolve into grand compositions without ever losing their unpretentious hearts. -- Eyl

Witch, Witch (Tee Pee). You wouldn't necessarily finger J Mascis for a metal-type dude, nor would you think that the guys from avant-folk act Feathers were into the heavy riffing of bands like Sabbath and Uriah Heep. But somehow the anomalous combination adds up to a thundering rock assault that culls from the darkest of influences. Hail Witch! -- Nguyen

Wolf, The Black Flame (Prosthetic). Sweden's Wolf secures its place as the undisputed torchbearer for melodic metal, gleefully recalling the heydays of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Brit metal fans will swoon at the galloping drums, insistent leads and operatic vocals on songs that rock as hard as titles like "I Will Kill Again" and "Steelwinged Savage Reaper." -- Eyl

Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass(Matador). Opening with the epic feedback drone of "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," the latest release from this Hoboken, New Jersey, trio is a return to the vital eclecticism that made the band famous. Incandescent guitar and suggestive atmospheres illuminate unconventional yet tender melodies. This is avant-pop music for dreamers everywhere. -- Murphy

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