Lackthereof, Christian the Christian

If you haven't heard of Lackthereof, don't worry. Almost no one has. A side project of Menomena drummer Danny Seim, Lackthereof lives a decidedly low-profile life. This year Seim quietly released his sixth full-length, Christian the Christian, and played a single show with a full band, which then dissolved. That performance was shaky, but the album is the most sonically and lyrically adventurous release from a Portland band this year--with just enough of that instability to give it life. A mere 30 minutes, Christian the Christian is dense with Seim's stuttering rhythm, well-placed synth parts and a lyricism driven by Christian guilt. Heavy, but Seim does it with a light hand, delivering his thoughts in short, curious pop songs that can also lilt and laugh. (Mark Baumgarten)

The Thermals, Fuckin A

Crisper and cleaner than their explosively grimy debut, More Parts Per Million, the Thermals' sophomore effort, Fuckin A, still assaults the ears with a distorted hail of snotty vocals and 4/4 punk-beat shrapnel. It's just a bit...tidier. Hutch Harris' sweet snarls of double talk subtly relax into insistent two-minute rants on politics and puppyish love while Kathy Foster and Jordan Hudson play puppetmasters, their bass and drum detonations bouncing your body around like a goddamn marionette. If the swelling, anthemic charm of "How We Know" doesn't inspire your Ramones-eque devotion to this trio, well, you're a Fuckin A-hole. (Kelly Clarke)

The Hunches, Hobo Sunrise

Local primordial punks the Hunches deepened the decrepit ditch of what we call "garage rock" with their sophomore album, Hobo Sunrise. The Rose City quartet proves that not only are its live shows sweaty, noisy and self-flagellating, but its latest songs sound like some unique hybrid of prog-rock and garage punk. Its songwriting is increasingly versatile--both in effectively reviving the early hardcore sounds of the Adolescents and Texas psych of 13th Floor Elevators, as well as making catchy pop songs seem dangerously vitriolic. (Dave Clifford)

Suckapunch, Pocket Change Philosophy

When producer Keith Schreiner paired up with singer Jennifer Folker in Dahlia, it felt like something was missing. Then I heard Suckapunch and realized what it was. Not only was Schreiner blowing my mind with the most creative hip-hop beats since Eric B, but he was backing up Mic Crenshaw. Crenshaw is by far the best MC in town, but it took the platform created by Schreiner to show off his true talents. (David Gerritsen)

Stillway & Bonham, Stillway & Bonham

My favorite local album this year is quite literally beyond words. The instrumental acoustic guitar duets of Stillway & Bonham won me over from the very first spin. Far from mere roadmaps for jams or collections of riffs, Ben Bonham and Jamie Stillway write real, solid, honest-to-goodness songs that just happen to have no lyrics; the duo's individual talents and sympathetic interplay are lyrical enough. (Jeff Rosenberg)