You can read the INDY’s “Albums That Got Us Through This Year” here. 

Pat Junior: “Rest!” [Apr. 15]

Before his year peaked with a production credit on Nas’s “King’s Disease,” Raleigh hip-hop doyen Pat Junior developed his personal vision—which contrasts vulnerable themes of mental health with rugged, moody music—in this coldly fiery riposte in defense of work-life balance.

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Libby Rodenbough: “Tell Me How” [May 1]

In this single from her fine solo debut on Sleepy Cat Records, the Mipso fiddler gives an indelible high-lonesome folk song a supple, dreamlike finish, seeming to freeze time under a full moon.

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XOXOK: “Right On” [May 22]

Carrboro’s Keenan Jenkins mined the ambiguous power of the tritone, the “devil’s interval,” for this shattering indie-soul meditation on lurking police violence. His follow-up single, “I’ll Be Fine,” verified him as the leading local artist to watch.

Jaki Shelton Green: “Oh My Brother” [Jun. 3]

The deep-welled wisdom of North Carolina’s poet laureate flowed into a new form on her debut album, The River Speaks of Thirst. In this memorial for murdered Black men, her healing voice and acute vision arrived when we needed them most.

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M8alla: “Mek Mi Anxious” [July 3]

The felicitous pairing of the Raleigh-based R&B singer and the Durham DJ Treee City resulted in this delectable summer jam for a detestable summer. But when the miasma clears, we’ll be happy to hear this at cookouts and dance parties for years to come.

Various artists: “Black AF Cypher” [Jul. 27]

Local hip-hop influencer Miriam “Mir.I.Am” Tolbert assembled Lena Jackson, Joose, TAGEM, and 2FLY KNG on her Carolina Waves platform to cast four candid, furious, nuanced Black Lives Matter essays in the form of glowing-hot bars.

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Wye Oak: “AEIOU” [July 31]

The Durham duo worked with the widely sought Brooklyn Youth Chorus to infuse bouncing, hovering dream-pop with celestial silver. Never have chanted vowels sounded so heavenly.

Nathan Oliver: “Everybody’s Swimming” [Sep. 23]

In a place with plenty of old-fashioned indie rock, Nathan Oliver stood out with this waterfall-jumping hook-fest, a wearily ecstatic ode to letting go from the album Thank You for Your Generosity.

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Gappa Mighty: “Moment of Clarity” [Nov. 6]

The Raund Haus cofounder tapped the icy Durham MC Kamus Leonardo and the analog-synth wiz Ultrabillions to craft this conscious warped-hop chiller to perfect wavy-lined proportions.

G Yamazawa: “North Cack Remix” [Dec. 6]

Apparently, G Yamazawa starved nine rappers for weeks—including “Raise Up” legend Petey Pablo, Jozeemo, Jooselord, and Lord Fess—and then gave them nothing to eat but a thunderous drumline reduction of his Bull-throwing 2017 single, “North Cack.” A Durham classic gets a fresh coat of barbecue sauce as two generations of N.C. hip-hop anthems collide.

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Bonus Tracks: Archers of Loaf: “Raleigh Days” | Matt Douglas: “Harlequin” | The Mountain Goats: “As Many Candles as Possible” | OC from NC and D.R.U.G.S. Beats: “up for discussion” | Kane Smego: “Collard Green Music”

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