Rockie, Censored (Self-released). Rockie has shown tremendous growth in his rhymes and flow this year, finishing strong with this fourth-quarter release. Censored is the culmination of all things dope. Rockie is most impressive on tracks like "Gold Dreams," with its diversified rhyme pattern, and "Game," in which he executes a cool tone and demeanor while letting his lyrics ride the smooth production. — Johnson

Sauna, The Teen Angst Tape & Rad Shit! (Self-released). Two separate records, one awesome, listenable timeline of a great year for a no-bullshit band. Sauna could be filed in with the "lo-fi, beachy, clangy rock" blah, but the quartet is so much more; unisex vocal duties and bare-beat drums make "Glitter Party" sound like an un-raunchy Gravy Train, while "God Dammit Ethan" resonates with a Teenage Jesus and the Jerks kicky scream. K Records, you need this band on your roster. — Davies

Science Partner, Rocky Mountain News (Larksmith Station Records). Science Partner began as an outlet for Tyler Despres's acoustic material in 2008. The group has since grown into a six-piece, and Despres's songs really flourish in the group format. The sextet includes remarkable vocalists Jess DiNicola and Maria Kohler, who offer wonderful harmonies throughout. Save for a few ballads, Rocky Mountain News finds Despres and company at home in an indie-rock setting. — Solomon

Shel, When the Dragon Came Down (Mad King Records/Moraine Records). After parting ways with Republic Nashville, which just didn't know what to do with them, the women of Shel sound no worse for wear on their latest release. In fact, they sound better than ever on these delicate tunes, which boast the sisters' trademark pristine melodies and pitch-perfect harmonies. — Herrera

The Skivies, Lorem Ipsum (Self-released). The Skivies sound so strong on Lorem Ipsum — which benefits from more robust production than any of its predecessors — it's easy to forget that the band makes truly bizarre music and mistake it for a more conventional rock band. Once again, DJ Von Feldt's lyrics weave unsettling stories with a surrealistic fervor. — Murphy

Caleb Slade, Victory in Defeat (Self-released). On Victory in Defeat, Caleb Slade successfully steps out of the shadow of his famous brother and makes a bold artistic statement of his own. Playing piano-driven post-Brit pop, Slade takes a stoic look at the letdowns of love, but also revels in reflections of the redemptive power it can possess. — Herrera

Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Unentitled (Alternative Tentacles). On Unentitled, Slim Cessna's Auto Club doesn't steer too far from its tried-and-true formula of dark country and gothic Americana, but the group does inject most of the tracks with a decent amount of its live vigor. Unentitled stands out as one of the Auto Club's finest releases and possibly its most accessible release to date. — Solomon

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Sineater (Greater Than). Of all the local albums released this year, Sineater was perhaps the most feverishly anticipated — and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake delivered. From Ravi Zupa's stellar cover art to the thick, pall-like clouds these ten songs conjure with their angular guitar lines over pulsing bass and powerful percussion and Hayley Helmericks' enthralling vocals, Sineater is absolutely riveting. — Herrera

Spires, EP (Patient Sounds). On EP, its auspicious four-song debut, Spires plays as though the past two decades and some change had never happened. With breathy vocals and deliberate arrangements, Spires inhabits the textured guitar-driven landscape once occupied by bands like the 77's. Of all this year's freshly minted acts, Spires proved to be one of the most promising, and this first release instantly earned repeated listens. — Herrera

Spoke In Wordz, Beautiful Dead (Self-released). Spoke's Beautiful Dead mixtape, released to coincide with Día de Los Muertos, sounds like a hip-hop prayer of resurrection. The opening poem, performed by Casey Whirl, is a timeline of hip-hop history, while the title track, produced by Es-Nine of Prime Element, showcases Spoke's tenacious rhymes. A fine piece of work, indeed. — Johnson

Sole & the Skyrider Band, Hello Cruel World (Fake Four). Not mere spleen-venting, these thirteen tracks are succinct and poignant commentaries on the diminished conditions and expectations of America below the top socioeconomic rung. They have a surprisingly commercial sound, but that's probably the only way the good medicine of their message can be palatable to the unconverted. — Murphy

Tennis, Cape Dory (Fat Possum). Led by the reverb-drenched guitar work of Patrick Riley and the sturdy vocals and organ playing of Alaina Moore, Tennis produced a pleasing, no-frills blend of retro pop that inspired a tidal wave of attention that crested with the release of Cape Dory, which, hyperbole aside, proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable record. — Herrera

Tollund Men, Demo 1 (Self-released). Like a post-apocalyptic version of Cabaret Voltaire, the music of Tollund Men is akin to grainy, forbidden transmissions from a secret bunker in a former Soviet republic. The songs have a lo-fi grittiness that give them a sound both scrappily robust and bitingly industrial. Think of it as dance music for a cyberpunk version of "The Waste Land." — Murphy

Vale of Pnath, Prodigal Empires (Willowtip). Prodigal Empire is the full-length followup to Vale of Pnath's 2009 self-titled debut, and the recorded introduction of vocalist Ken Serafin, who replaced the act's original singer, David Lercher. Prodigal finds the dudes playing mind-meltingly complex metal that's every bit as ferocious as before, with the added menace of Serafin's more guttural vocals. — Herrera

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Fuck u losers, Royal Talons is thee best band in town, retards!

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