December 31, 2019
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100 essential Maine albums of the decade

Contributed photos | BDN
Contributed photos | BDN
Best Maine albums of the decade 2019 cover art.

It would be impossible to construct a truly objective list of the best albums made in Maine. There’s no accounting for taste, and popularity has a loose relationship to quality. And besides — do people even listen to albums anymore?

But as someone who’s been covering Maine’s music scene for the past decade — writing and editing music reviews for alt-weekly newspapers the Portland Phoenix and DigPortland and monthly magazine Dispatch before joining the BDN — I thought I’d at least try.

I looked at various factors. I examined album sales and streams, as measured by Bull Moose Top 15 lists and data from major streaming outlets. I asked a solid number of musicians, artists, producers and venue owners for their perspective. And I also considered the significance each record had in forming a movement, documenting a scene, attracting national attention, launching an artist’s career or reshaping the cultural landscape. 

The following list should not be confused for a roster of personal favorites, but it does include some of my preferences. (There are also plenty of albums on this list I don’t particularly care for, but I can’t deny their significance.) The ranking system is designed for dramatic effect. 

For the most part, the musicians Mainers went to see play live 10 years ago are not the ones they’re seeing now. Times change, but it shouldn’t make the music — or how we shared it — any less important to remember and celebrate. And who knows — maybe in another 10 years, the album format itself will be obsolete and we’ll all be looking back at TikTok views. 

A quick note on criteria: Artists are Maine residents at the time the album was recorded — we see you Kalie Shorr, but the Nashville resident’s “Open Book” isn’t eligible — or the album was at least mostly recorded in the state. We considered all albums and EPs released between 2010 and 2019 (Michael O., who wrote several hit singles from Portland, didn’t qualify here).

100. The Other Bones, In the Night With Me (2019)


digital album

Full disclosure: This record came out in December. The reason it’s perfect for this list, though, is because the Other Bones, a sensational Portland electro-pop trio that broke up years ago, recently regrouped to finish its first and only full-length album. Fans may remember these songs from the early part of the decade, when this band, led by the incredible Loretta Allen and her soaring vocals, would fill up the newly rebuilt State Theatre. For diehards, the band also made a podcast about its dissolution titled The Breakup Album.

Recommended track: “In the Night”

99. The Class Machine, Swarm Theories (2013)


digital album

Belfast’s Class Machine played heavy, swampy punk-bluesy stuff, but here’s the twist: drummer Cody Tibbetts also played guitar — like both instruments at the same time — while bassist and singer Nathan Raleigh threw down his fuzzed-out bass extremely hard. Billed as a “two-man three-piece,” what could have remained a novelty act evolved into the band’s signature sound, a weird mix of Morphine, Kyuss and the White Stripes. The band recorded this full-length with Jonathan Wyman in Portland, and the rest is history.

Recommended track: “The Prince”

98. Mouth Washington, Fourth Floor (2017)


CD/CS/ digital

Mouth Washington’s sprawling 55-minute record stands as its opus. Sounding like a weird mix of Mudhoney and Modest Mouse, the band seemed to have its hands in everything this decade, playing and organizing shows with the rock kids, the rap kids and the punks (which is what happens when your members work in record stores). Its live act hasn’t lost a drop of intensity since the band began in 2011.

Recommended track: “Avia”

97. Cruel Hand, Lock & Key (2010)


Bridge Nine Records

Cruel Hand is a metallic hardcore band that formed two decades ago. Its members came up through Maine’s grimy hardcore punk scene of the late ‘90s, when tough-as-bricks bands like Boston’s Blood For Blood and New York City’s Madball would play up here every other month, and put that knowledge to use. It has amassed a dedicated fanbase of hardcore fans worldwide, and a lot of them maintain that this is the band’s best.

Recommended track: “Labyrinth”

96. When Particles Collide, Photoelectric (2014)



As the story goes, Sasha Alcott and Chris Viner met on the set of a Bangor production of the play Hedwig and the Angry Inch in 2010. They became so enamored of each other that they started this high-energy rock ‘n’ roll duo … and then they got hitched. After an electric EP and a ton of touring, they released Photoelectric, their explosive 2014 peak, which sees the duo channeling their natural spark toward steady maturation.

Recommended track: “Constant Disaster”

95. Kesho Wazo: Youth Art Collective, Wazo Showcase Soundtrack, Vol. 1 (2017)



The rise of Kesho Wazo, a youth art collective comprising Portland high school students building community and capacity for young students of color, was necessary stuff for a city like Portland when it happened during the summer of 2016. Over a prolific stretch, Kesho Wazo organized political protests, an annual summer festival (Wazofest) and fashion shows where members sold their own designs. They also made an album for it, led by the charismatic Wazo Daveed — a Portlander via Kinshasa, Congo — whose new album Starchild, released this year, is garnering national attention.

Recommended track: “Distant Ways”

94. Tom Kovacevic, Universe Thin as Skin (2014)



Tom Kovacevic plays an original style of folk ballads steeped in his long history of studying traditional Arabic music. On “Universe Thin as Skin,” his otherworldly debut album, he plays the oud, the nay flute and a few different types of drum, but it’s Tom K’s reverent, rhythmic strumming patterns and idiosyncratic vocals — indicative of an outsider’s approach to traditional Arabic music — that listeners will remember most. Kovacevic is a former member of Tarpigh and Cerberus Shoal, and a 20-year student of the craft. This record is a low-key Maine treasure.

Recommended track: “I’ll Ask You”

93. Amy Allen, Honey (2010)

Crooked Cove

Today, the songwriter Amy Allen has multiple credits on the Billboard Top 100. Ten years ago, the 18-year-old Waynflete high school senior and South Portland resident released “Honey,” a five-song EP that she made at Jonathan Wyman’s recording studio The Halo, with Chuck Gagne (of The Lucid), Stu Mahan (of the Awesome) and Carter Logan (of Jerks of Grass) in tow. It’s no longer available, but it launched a huge decade for the songwriter. After Allen’s Warner Bros. debut this spring, we’ll see if she’s the next Taylor Swift.

Recommended track: “Tomorrow”

92. Kristina Kentigian, The Beginning Again (2012)



In possession of one of the loveliest voices in southern Maine, Kristina Kentigian heralded a very busy decade with this smooth and soulful R&B album. Her frequent collaborations throughout the city’s hip-hop, funk and cover-night scenes have kept her in the spotlight, alongside a crew of dedicated musicians who made the leap from the Big Easy to the Portland House of Music in the middle of the decade.

Recommended track: “Mr. Wonderful”

91. Too Late the Hero, Survivor’s Guilt (2017)


From Berwick, Too Late the Hero formed in 2003. By the time it released Statement of Purpose, it had largely honed their metallic hardcore toward the genre ideal of bands like Lamb of God, making it a welcome platter for young folks seeking the same throughout the expanses of the internet.

Recommended track: “Ghouls & Ghosts”

90. Correspondences, Split with Swaath (2012)



Correspondences was a little-known, queer-identified cello-doom trio that took root in Portland in 2011. While the group only lasted a year, they were singularly spectacular, casting a warm and witchy glow through a Portland heavy scene long dominated by dudes. Members of Correspondences went on to do other good stuff — Imogen Binnie became a popular novelist, Lee King started the poetry zine COME HELL and Emily Dix Thomas plays with Providence’s The Huntress and Holder of Hands.

Recommended track: “Heavy Cream”

89. Herbcraft, Wot Oz (2015)


Woodsist / LP/digital

Herbcraft is the transcendental psych-blues project of Matt Lajoie, a Lewiston-raised artist who started the tape label L’Animaux Tryst last decade to put out like-minded artists of the drone, folk, and Deadhead variety. Wot Oz, the last full-length he’d put out before forming Ash & Herb, a joint effort between he and astral player Starbirthed.

Recommended track: “Push Through the Veil”

88. Hi Tiger, I Love Music (2011)



It’s been hard to live in Portland the last 10 years and not encounter Hi Tiger in some way. The shapeshifting art production vehicle of painter, singer and multidisciplinary artist Derek Jackson has lately been behind the Maine Academy for Electronic Music, a nonprofit that holds youth DJ clinics and dance parties for young people of color in Portland, Lewiston and Biddeford. But at its inception, Hi Tiger was a five-piece art-punk band — and a good one as this album proves — led by Jackson’s flair for impressionistic storytelling. Hi Tiger may never be an actual band again, but this record marks an artist forging a way forward that we wish more musicians would take.

Recommended track: “pompous pilot”

87. Dean Ford, Get Messy (2015)


A former member of the pop-punk group The Goodnight Process, Ford went for it with “Get Messy,” making the full transition into glammy electro dance. With help from music luminaries Renee Coolbrith, Spose and Saiyid Brent, Ford’s album was drenched in hooks, and was even more impressive for being produced largely in GarageBand by the artist himself.

Recommended track: “Heartbeat”

86. The Milkman’s Union, Telos EP (2011)



The Milkman’s Union emerged in the middle part of last decade from the labors of two Bowdoin College students — singer-songwriter Henry Jamison and drummer Peter McLaughlin. Its sparkling, jazz-inflected indie-folk had been pared down by “Telos,” but it was only the beginning for these two. McLaughlin would launch the Maine-based label Pretty Purgatory and become the music programmer at Portland’s SPACE, while Jamison is a darling of Rolling Stone magazine, touring internationally this year after a recent single topped 65 million Spotify streams.

Recommended track: “Alabaster Box”

85. Sparks the Rescue, Worst Thing I’ve Been Cursed With (2012)


Formed in 1999 while members were still in high school, this pop-punk turned rock quintet got a massive boost from Maine radio stations, which helped get its 2009 album attention from MTV and a spot on the Warped Tour. This album keeps its roots intact amid the mainstream polish, which got poured on a little more heavily later.

Recommended track: “High and Hazy”

84. Jason Spooner Band, Chemical (2014)


One of Maine’s most dedicated independent musicians, Jason Spooner’s soulful folk-pop songs put a homegrown spin on artists such as Martin Sexton, John Mayer and Ray Lamontagne. In venues along certain sun-drenched stretches along the coast, it’s plenty common to hear “Chemical” booming from the speakers — that is, if he’s not playing a set there tonight himself.

Recommended track: “Shrouded”

83. Mike Clouds, Apollo’s Stamina (2014)


Milled Pavement

Mike Clouds is a DJ and producer who’s been producing and DJing in Portland for more than 20 years. His other records lean toward straight hip hop or trippy ambient, but this instrumental trap album is regarded as a keeper, with its burst of hi-hat flares and burbling basslines.

Recommended track: “Illkid”

82. id m theft able, Teeth Teething (2015)

Editions Piednu/Mang Disc

We could choose virtually any of the umpteen works from Windham native Skot Spear. The avant-garde Amadeus is a true Maine original, and has found international adoration even while he enjoys obscurity at home. “Teeth Teething” is one of the most “accessible” — it’s released on CD through a French label, as well as Spear’s own Mang Disc.

Recommended track: “The Shape of My Teeth”

81. The Renovators, Captured Live in Portland (2017)


It may be cheating to include a live record here, but live is where The Renovators, a tireless Portland blues band, is best. This record captures Bob Rasero and company in their glory at Portland’s intimate night club Blue, where the band tore through decades of its barroom blues jammers.

Recommended track: “Gimme the Truth”

80. Myles Bullen, Not Dead Yet (2018)


The second album from rapper and spoken word artist Myles Bullen is louder and more cohesive than his 2017 debut, which makes a sturdier platform for him to rep his style — conscious, vulnerable and all about healing. He’s a young dude, but brave, and he’s got a ton of folks on his side.

Recommended track: “Horizons”

79. Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Soucy, Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Soucy (2013)


A lyric-forward album from Garrett and Siiri Soucy, residents of Belfast who once played in the austere Portland band Tree By Leaf. The duo’s ministrations here are rendered more powerful by Garrett’s terrific lyrics. The whole catalog is good, but this one gets high marks for making the seamless transition to a new chapter.

Recommended track: “Adagio For Skin”

78. The Ghost of Paul Revere, Believe (2013)


They would soon attract national attention with breakthrough album “Monarch,” but the Portland holler-folk group first released this proof of concept, elevating the group from a barroom novelty act (when they were called Griffin Sherry and the Ghost of Paul Revere) into something more cohesive and special.

Recommended track: “San Antone”

77. Hessian, Bachelor of Black Arts (2014)


This fantasy metal band can pull off a straight face with tongues planted more firmly in their cheeks than anyone else on this list. In the early part of the decade, Hessian — primarily its co-founders Angus MacFarland and Salli Wason — were indefatigable. Playing a Manowar-style power-metal, Hessian would appear constantly at Geno’s, Portland’s eminent metal club, keeping one of Maine’s last resorts of heavy music alive and influencing an entire generation of fans in the process.

Recommended track: “Cloven Lady”

76. Aleric Nez, Aleric Nez (2010)


Apohadion Records / LP/digital

While often overlooked, this is a raw and compelling folk record with nimble fingerpicking and dreamy, hallucinogenic lyrics. Some have compared it to John Frusciante’s “Niandra Lades,” which is not far off, but Aleric Nez (aka Vince Nez) has no studio trickery to offer here, just a resonator guitar and a microphone. Recorded by Dave Noyes and Pat Corrigan at Apohadion Records, heralding what would be a great decade at the Bayside venue.

Recommended track: “Water in the Wake”

75. Jonathan Edwards, Tomorrow’s Child (2015)

Rising Records

While this was recorded in Nashville, the folk legend Jonathan Edwards resides in Portland, making this earnest spin the artist took remembering his youthful travels a welcome inclusion here. In lightly country-tinged style, Edwards bangs out new classics like “Sandy Girl,” and reflects elsewhere on being reunited with his own adopted daughter, a story of special significance for a man who was adopted himself.

Recommended track: “Jonny’s Come Home”

74. Roseview, The Misery in Me (2018)

Tragic Hero

Roseview may be the latest Portland band to break through into the national spotlight. Formed in 2015, these five dudes’ debut is all about intensity and personal catharsis, common virtues in the coming-of-age field of riffy melodic hardcore-metal in which they tarry. Roseview’s version of it is indeed intense, and it has lifted them onto the festival circuit and a ton of Spotify streams.

Recommended track: “Ghost”

73. The Baltic Sea, Period Piece (2011)


The Baltic Sea was a post-rock band based in Portland that wrote long, atmospheric compositions with some prog influence. Think Slint or Explosions in the Sky, but with occasional doses of Yes. The seven songs on “Period Piece” were each separate journeys, and yet they’re just as listenable today. Fact: one member, Todd Hutchisen, became one of the city’s most sought-after recording engineers.

Recommended track: “Swiss Ticking Time”

72. Johnny Cremains, Hollywoodland (2015)


Johnny Cremains is a dark lounge-rock band with a flair for dramatics, and it wouldn’t work well without the musical chops of its players, most of them having transitioned out of more sensational metal acts. Some Mike Patton worship is evident here, though the group doesn’t approach the level of techie weirdness of Mr. Bungle, and the howls of frontman Sean Libby, who seems teetering on the edge of madness, is the album’s blue-beating heart.

Recommended track: “The Howling is For You”

71. The Kenya Hall Band, Learning For Miles Vol. 1 (2010)


This album sparked what would become a great decade for soul singer Kenya Hall. Anchored by her smooth, soaring vocals, Hall’s backed here by a bevy of Portland musicians, some of those she would collaborate with for the next 10 years, as the Big Easy would evolve to the Portland House of Music, and as Hall would elevate her Stevie Wonder Tribute Night to become one of Maine music’s annual holidays.

Recommended track: “Connection”

70. Spencer Albee, SPENCER (2013)


Spencer Albee’s deep commitment to infectious pop shines through some nice arrangements on his 2013 eponymous album, which he settled into after building and disbanding two supergroups (Spencer and the School Street Mafia and Space Versus Speed) over the previous five years. In possession of one of the deepest CVs in all of Maine music, the former member of Rustic Overtones was also producing Clash of the Titans, Portland’s weekly tribute night, around this time of this album’s release.

Recommended track: “Wait Through the War”

69. Jeff Beam, Is Believed to Have Been (2015)

Teenarena Records

All decade long, Jeff Beam has made music that’s as uncategorizable as it is listenable. “Is Believed to Have Been” can sound like Radiohead, Todd Rundgren, Spoon, Panda Bear or Phish, but Beam and his band — which would not yet benefit from the addition of music therapist and future wife Kate Beever — layer a carefully crafted psych-rock veneer over it all. The result is a depth that rewards multiple listens down the line, which is why this record still sounds fresh.

Recommended track: “Auspicious Minds”

68. Brenda, Fix Your Eyes (2013)

Teenarena Records

The brilliance of Brenda, a Portland indie power-pop trio, was that each of its members had an incredibly distinct personality, and none of them overshadowed the others. A darling of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, who selected them to play the band’s curated Solid Sound Festival, the group disbanded shortly after this gem — though members would go on to play in other bands higher up on this list.

Recommended track: “Boxy Music”

67. Micah Blue Smaldone, The Ring of the Rise (2013)


There’s an aura of myth surrounding Maine folk artist Micah Blue Smaldone. Once a member of working-class street-punk band the Pinkerton Thugs, Smaldone reinvented himself as a sort of ragtime/Piedmont blues player around the turn of the century. After a time busking on the streets of Portland, Smaldone moved up the rural Maine coast and evolved a style all his own, evidenced by 2008’s incredible and carefully orchestrated folk album “The Red River.” This follow-up, which features arrangements with his brother, is of the same feather.

Recommended track: “Dead Stop”

66. North of Nashville, North of Nashville (2014)


After years playing clubs as multi-dimensional J Biddy, the songwriter Jay Basiner went full-on country, joining up with Andrew Martelle and slinging terms such as outlaw. The act only lasted a couple years, but it kicked up enough dirt to get Basiner out of town and to Nashville proper, where his recent efforts landed him a slot opening up for Alan Jackson.

Recommended track: “Isabella”

65. Endless Jags, Sell the Banquet (2014)


Endless Jags was kind of like Portland’s version of Broken Social Scene, but for people who were starting adult life at the time of the Great Recession. A group of friends who’d been playing together close to 10 years, the members wrote bitter, yearning, beautiful songs that seemed to revel in the knowledge that their brilliance would have no hope of rescuing them from obscurity. Driving, anthemic and brimming with guitars (the band’s six members included three of them), it was the sound of dudes who had given up on chasing the American dream and just cared about each other instead.

Recommended track: “Surfer”

64. Asa Irons, Knife Gift Debt (2013)

Turned Word/Laughable

This trim, austere eight-song LP from Asa Irons, a carpenter who played in the band Feathers and now lives near Belfast, is proof that Maine folk music can still be accessible without leaning into pop territory. Irons folds in elements of Irish music and workingman traditionals, and his sparse arrangements and a stoic commitment to storytelling ramps up intensity as the album unfolds.

Recommended track: “Happily We Go”

63. Royal Hammer, My Bubble (2013)



When this debut record came out, it had been years since frontman Michael Taylor stepped out from his main gig in the Rustic Overtones to front Royal Hammer, the seven-piece roots-reggae act in the vein of Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown. That meant there were tons of partiers who had already rocked with them, both in the Old Port and on the edges of town, and needed a keepsake.

Recommended track: “Nice Up Your Soul”

62. Marion Grace, Lying Down Looking Up (2010)


Portland’s mighty roots-blues outfit took shape in 2006, when songwriter Ralph Graceffa played a few songs at an open mic one night at the Ale House — the late, great Old Port dive bar — which caught the attention of drummer Aaron Cloutier. A week later, Graceffa was introduced to fellow songwriter Clara Junken and bassist Aaron Frederick, and the rest was history. The group’s sweet and soulful sound had undeniable mass appeal, and this album, recorded shortly before the split, captured it.

Recommended track: “Walking With You”

61. Caethua, The Summer Is Over Before It’s Begun (2011)

Water Wing Records

Clare Hubbard, aka Caethua, would later revamp herself as country artist Clay Camino, but her album of dreamy and haunting folk songs — most of them made with piano and cello — made while living in the woods of Waldo County should go down as her crowning achievement this decade.

Recommended track: “The Smell of June”

60. Elijah Ocean, Back to the Lander (2019)


Though he lives in Los Angeles, Elijah Ocean’s latest album was recorded almost entirely in midcoast Maine, where the up-and-coming country artist was raised. A studious purveyor of the Bakersfield sound following in the Buck Owens mold, these 11 tracks are bright and spacious, and a healthy crop of Maine artists (including BDN Managing Editor Dan MacLeod on bass and mandolin) make up Ocean’s backing band.

Recommended track: “River of Red”

59. Sara Hallie Richardson, Phoenix (2015)


With her third full-length album, Sara Hallie Richardson truly got lifted. Filled with richly crafted, Grizzly Bear-ish arrangements courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Sean Morin (whose own work narrowly missed this list), Richardson’s spritely soprano has plenty of room to dance here, recalling Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell in its playfulness and warmth.

Recommended track: “Phoenix”

58. Foam Castles, Through That Door (2014)


Tyler Jackson‘s best record of the decade was also his most accessible. The prolific songwriter pumped out a lot of good albums under the Foam Castles name, but “Through That Door” is particularly majestic, its intricate, well-crafted indie rock contains a lot of sneaky earworms, touching on influences like the Beach Boys, Guided By Voices, Soft Boys and more. Jackson put the Foam Castles moniker to rest in 2017, and now fronts the band Golden Rules the Thumb, a more traditional vehicle for his songs.

Recommended track: “Gutshot”

57. Darien Brahms, Dogwood (2012)


By the time Darien Brahms released her sixth album, the Portland alt-rock songwriter had it figured out. She already spent a couple decades as one of the city’s most respected artists, and had opened for major-label stars such as Chris Isaak and Ben Harper. All that was left was the lucrative record deal. Were it a different world (say, the ‘90s), “Dogwood” would slot between the David Bowie and Edie Brickell albums on your shelf.

Recommended track: “Yes Yes Yes”

56. David Mallett, Celebration (2016)

North Road Records

Inspired by the candidacy of the Bernie Sanders campaign, longtime folksinger and working-class hero David Mallett wrote the songs that would make up his 17th album from his home in Sebec. From the tradition of Pete Seeger, Noel Stookey and Gordon Lightfoot, Mallett’s folk work has been a Maine treasure for generations, and “Celebration” extended it to ours.

Recommended track: “Ring For You”

55. Olas, La Perla (2010)



This revelatory flamenco project fused together players from some of the city’s best metal, folk and indie-rock scenes. Olas’ reverential live shows featured deeply studied flamenco dancers in step alongside the half moon of musicians, pattering the pampas and strumming in careful rhythms.

Recommended track: “Lust For Swords”

54. Eric Bettencourt, Secret Songs for Secret People (2011)


The grain of Eric Bettencourt’s voice is a special thing, matched by few living singers today. The former Portland songwriter spun a lot of heads when you put this out nearly 10 years ago. A mix of soulful dangling folk with breezy vocals recalling Shannon Hoon and Janis Joplin, “Secret Songs” had an urgency and tension beneath their breezy candor. Bettencourt moved to Austin, Texas, a few years later, but this one captured his Portland heyday.

Recommended track: “Furious Pace”


Milled Pavement

The rapper Brzowski is an overeducated doomer whose verses are just as verbose as Aesop Rock. His 2011 album, “A Fitful Sleep,” was also a contender, but the production on this album ages it better, as well as the fully fleshed “eff-it” vibe he had stepped into by this point. Real name Jason Cornell, Brzowski moved out of state after this release, but it still stands as one of the top hip-hop records of the decade.

Recommended track: “Masking Fluid and Painter’s Tape”

52. Whitcomb, Crown Park (2011)


Few metal bands could operate with the accessibility that Whitcomb did. That’s because few metal bands have a weapon like Brant Daedalares at its disposal. Before he became an elite pastry chef in Portland, Daedalares lent his pipes to this barreling metal project, like a midpoint between Incubus and High On Fire.

Recommended track: “The Bat”

51. Armies, II (2018)


This duet from Anna Lombard and Rustic Overtones frontman Dave Gutter seemed like a money-making scheme concocted in a Burbank high rise, but it was an actual organic union. Rolling Stone magazine named its debut as one of “the best albums you didn’t hear” of 2015, but this 2018 effort is stronger. The pair is blessed with two of the sweetest voices in the state, and a lot of Mainers’ hearts were stopped hearing them together.

Recommended track: “Young Criminals”

50. Educated Advocates, In Sessions (2010)

Preposterously Dank

A very strong rap record from Maine boys Jay Caron and Mike Be, Maine boys playing with a New York City-style, with vintage jazz samples, hard ciphers and nimble beats. It exudes fun and confidence, and has a big crew mentality that would prove more true as the years wore on and Portland’s various rap nights would evolve.

Recommended track: “Diddy Dum”

49. Plains, Confirm Reservation (2014)


Apohadion Records

This album of slow-core folk songs (named after a roots-reggae album) wasn’t the sort of music to send immediate shock waves through the scene. But Erin Sprinkle’s songs are written to unwrap over time, which was well-suited for her accompanists here — Jeremy and Jerusha of South China, and artist/instrumentalists Pat Corrigan and Dave Noyes — who were founding members of Portland’s Bayside venue the Apohadion.

Recommended track: “The Swimmer”

48. Grand Hotel, In color. (2011)


On its second album, the dynamic Portland rock group Grand Hotel did everything it did on its self-titled debut a little brighter, smoother, hookier and more confident. Frontman Kyle Gervais, who launched this band after his Cosades project ended, would eventually have one of the most prolific decades of anybody on this list (not named id m theft able) with the carousel personnel of “KGFREEZE,” but this album still feels like his pinnacle of the era.

Recommended track: “i gotta new message”

47. Sarah Violette, AnxiousLove (2018)


After she performed for years in the Portland hip-hop scene under a different alias, Sarah Violette stepped into her name and threw down two enduring bangers a few years ago. This is the second one, a bit more vulnerable and bold than “Ultraviolette.” She raps about the blurry lines between friendship and romance made blurrier by restrictive public norms around sexuality, and her flows about human desire are amped by the underrated local producer Ben Thompson and primo vocalist Renee Coolbrith.

Recommended track: “In My Head”

46. The Outfits, Tryin on the Outfits (2011)



This crass, crude, unapologetic punk band played brazenly effortlessly enjoyable songs that were barely more than a minute long. In stark contrast to an innumerable number of bands playing in a stylistically punk music, the Outfits understood the term correctly, scorching through a scene perpetually dominated by dudes who struggle with managing their misogyny. The Outfits were short-lived, but this album still rips, and paved the way for a much more egalitarian punk scene the rest of the decade.

Recommended track: “On the Rag”

45. Sidecar Radio, Guillotine Mouth EP (2011)


The primary arc of Sidecar Radio’s story had already peaked by the turn of the decade, but the band’s sharp and hard-edged rock was still plenty hot by the time they released this EP. Darlings of WCYY, they sounded like Foo Fighters crossed with a dose of Refused.

Recommended track: “Hijacked”

44. Mousa, Songs of the Universe (2013)



Mousa is an alias of Vince Nez, but this dreamy record is a far cry from the self-titled fingerpicking joint he dropped earlier on the list. “Songs of the Universe” is a batch of hallucinatory, reverb-drenched songs and tasteful crooning about closely guarded meditations, the sort of album you can play 10 times in a row and not tire of. Nez would become a fixture at Blue, where he booked music, and the rare occasions he’d pull out this material were gold.

Recommended track: “Birdy Song”

43. Friends of Johnny Fountain, The Grand Adventure (2018)



Johnny Fountain, a roots-folk singer-songwriter with a heart of gold who worked as a bartender at the music venue Empire in Portland, died of cancer in 2015. Three years later, Dominic Lavoie of the band the Lucid spearheaded this effort to produce Fountain’s album, with the help of many of the late songwriter’s friends. The noble effort helped reaffirm that Fountain wasn’t only a beloved community member, but a fine and standout lyricist.

Recommended track: “1x1x1”

42. Jaw Gems, Heatweaver (2017)


Heatweaver marked the point where Jaw Gems fully popped off, having fully transformed themselves from a Portland band to a national one. They were taken under the wing of Boston funk group Lettuce, whose members have Portland roots, and this album was dropped after its organically drippy boom-bap jazz had wowed thousands at festivals near and far.

Recommended track: “Peace Pipe”

41. Rustic Overtones, Let’s Start a Cult, Part Two (2013)


Rustic dropped what sounded like a conventional Rustic album in 2012, and then it dropped this kooky follow-up. The opener was an obvious homage to Can and spoke volumes — Rustic was allowing themselves to stretch a bit, an interesting development for a band in tension between mainstream demands and the deep musical appreciation of its players.

Recommended track: “Martyrs”

40. Toughcats, Woodenball (2012)


The Toughcats are a midcoast trio who play Americana music with indie aesthetics, consisting of banjo, resonator guitar and drums. They recorded Woodenball at Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven, and the album is as organic and bouncy as the name implies, steered by soothing yet unpredictable harmonic vocals by twin singers Joe Nelson and Jake Greenlaw.

Recommended track: “Woodenball”

39. The Mallett Brothers Band, The Falling of the Pine: Songs from the Maine Woods (2017)


Four albums in and already established as one of the state’s finest exports, the Mallett Brothers Band stepped up their roots-country repertoire when they found a book of Acadian working songs that loggers would sing from their father’s attic. This album sees the band applying its battle-tested spin on Maine country music to spotlight a part of Maine history that goes back generations. That it was a winning formula is no surprise.

Recommended track: “The Falling of the Pine”

38. The Coloradas, The Coloradas (2011)


Longtime collaborators Roy Davis and Bernie Nye formed The Coloradas, a bluegrass act in the vein of Punch Brothers that got attention from No Depression and other country-listening wings due to Davis’ strong storytelling ability. The duo has close ties to mandolinist Joe Walsh, and what could have been a storming debut ended up being an enduring record.

Recommended track: “This Isn’t Love, Natalie”

37. Spose, Humans (2017)

Preposterously Dank

Don’t forget that Spose, a rapper from Wells who has spent an entire decade building his brand, is also a major champion of the Maine music scene. So in 2017, when he invited a slew of musicians to come to his studio and write, rehearse and record an album in 24 hours, it was more than a stunt. The results are what they are (and better than you think), but the gesture was a simple reminder why people make music at all — to find your people, work alongside them and prop them up.

Recommended track: “Give It Up”

36. Splendora Colt, Hoods on the Water Tower (2011)


Wes Hartley’s alt-country power-trio didn’t get very far, splitting up after just a handful of shows and this one self-released album. But the record itself is a monster. Fans of Hartley’s Dead End Armory, the indie-country band of last decade, saw his songs get deeper, heavier and more disarming. Hartley took his signature yowl and stunningly poetic lyrics back to Texas this fall.

Recommended track: “Metal Sawing Metal”

35. Sylvia, Sylvia EP (2013)


The past decade of Portland metal was dominated by Conifer and Ocean, two bands whose mastery of glacially paced bleakness made Maine metal synonymous with doom. Their splits left a huge void into which the pummeling metal quartet Sylvia came galloping in. It played a complex sort of blackened metal that obeyed conventional structure well enough to lure in unlikely fans, and had probably the best scream in the business in frontman Candy.

Recommended track: “Lizard Birdman”

34. Dead Gowns, New Spine EP (2018)


It’s just a five-song EP, but Dead Gowns’ debut brought a lot of swooning when it dropped last year. The raw and tender indie-folk songs of Genevieve Beaudoin seem eerily elevated played as a four-piece, such as Lucinda Williams fronting Fleet Foxes. Anyone treated to the band’s live set knows that she’s the real deal.

Recommended track: “Lyon”

33. Kafari, Beholding (2018)


“Beholding” is a serene and gorgeous solo piano album from Bowdoin College grad Ahmad Hassan Mohammed, a founding member member of Jaw Gems who split off after the jazzy hip-hop group’s excellent first album. Kafari’s first solo record, a delicious, sample-heavy album titled “Knockturnes” inspired by Bill Evans, could also easily be on this list, but “Beholding” is special, a sack of burning coals that the artist made as a salve for the harsh and isolating Maine winter.

Recommended track: “Secret Part of You”

32. Video Nasties, Video Nasties (2016)


Feeding Tube Records

As the fangs of big-ticket private developers hover around Portland’s neck, the benevolent monster squad known as the Video Nasties are still keeping the city safe for freaks. The band’s frontman, Brendan Evans runs Strange Maine, the cult record/book/ephemera store in the heart of the arts district, making it a de facto home base for the group’s bodyphilic, mutant no-wave proto punk (think early Gary Numan, Chrome, etc.) This LP collection of the Video Nasties various cassette-only releases serves as a reminder that progress isn’t always for the best.

Recommended track: “I Can See What You’re Doing (to Yourself)”

31. Jimmy Do-Right and the Pop Go Boom, Jimmy Do Right and the Pop Go Boom (2016)



Portland musician Jimmy Dority is equally comfortable working highbrow or low. In the early part of the decade, he played by-request piano at the long-gone Crowbar on Munjoy Hill before the working-class watering hole was gutted, and he spent years writing and composing the 12 songs on this album, with arrangements for 21-piece pop orchestra featuring some of the city’s most accomplished jazz players. Dority’s goal all-along was a single show (he actually did two) and to make this record, and it stands as one of Portland’s greatest collective musical accomplishments.

Recommended track: “When Ya Gonna Carry Me Home (O Lord)”

30. Spouse, Confidence (2010)

Nine Mile Records

The indie-rock band Spouse was a big part of the aughts. Led by frontman Jose Ayerve and his set of golden pipes, the band played a sweet sort of indie rock that served Ayerve’s brooding depths and soaring swerves.

Recommended track: “No Sudden Moves”

29. An Anderson, Very Machine (2016)



It’s unclear whether math-rock fell out of fashion naturally, or it was a Clinton-era indulgence, before the internet zapped all the free time that well-educated musicians otherwise filled playing music together. Either way, it’s certainly a modern indulgence that Mainers can witness An Anderson, the thrillingly complex four-piece instrumental unit that raised its own bar with this one-track, 35-minute album. The obvious touchstone here is Pittsburgh’s late, great Don Caballero, who wrote dynamic rock forms around the stunningly octapodal abilities of its own drummer. An Anderson’s is the incredible Elijah True, from Lewiston, whose performance here is worth the price of admission.

Recommended track: “Very Machine”

28. Ada, Ada (2018)



Ada started as a band called Butcher Boy that played a gnarly, punky bluegrass after a couple of its members split off from the post-rock band Pamola. Its music got progressively slower and dreamier over the years, incorporating jazz, ambient and post-rock. By the time it released this masterpiece, its songs felt like actual dreams themselves, blurring into one another in a dizzying, pleasurable blur. It recorded this final album with Efrim of the famed Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor and then called it a day. For fans of Maine legends Cerberus Shoal, this album is the decade’s equivalent of “Chaiming the Knoblessone.”

Recommended track: “All Your Awful Songs”

27. Lisa/Liza, Deserts of Youth (2016)


Lisa/Liza, the alias of Portland songwriter Liza Miller, debuted with the stunning “Ancient Edge,” a hazy and melancholic folk record that echoed Liz Harris as well as former collaborator Tanner Olin Smith, (a brilliant Maine folk artist who passed away in 2017). Four years later, her “Deserts of Youth” album was a bit cleaner than her debut, but no less intimate and haunting, and Lisa/Liza caught some well-deserved national attention with this one, earning an 8.0 from a big review site and tons of local love from venues like the Apohadion, one of the only Portland venues built for deep listening.

Recommended track: “Lady Day”

26. Five of the Eyes, The Venus Transit (2017)


This explosive prog-rock record caught Portland by surprise. Started when the gifted singer Darrell Foster linked up with three-fifths of the members of a band called Chaos Sauce (and adding one of the member’s brother), Five of the Eyes started writing together in 2014, fusing the dynamism of the Mars Volta with the deep charisma of Jeff Buckley — all Foster. Prog rock is a niche genre, but there’s not really much abrasive or off-putting about this record, and it could be the start of something even bigger.

Recommended track: “Mirrors”

25. Big Blood, Dead Songs (2010)



Big Blood is a special band. Bandmates and partners Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella formed it after the legendary Maine band Cerberus Shoal split up, playing a swampy, murky blues made wild by Kinsella’s soaring falsetto. Nowadays, their adolescent daughter Quinnisa is a full-fledged member of the band, giving them dimensions this genre rarely allows, but “Dead Songs” was a huge statement, an “official”-seeming album after a slew of CD-Rs.

Recommended track: “Curtain Call”

24. god.damn.chan, Slush (2018)

Alpha Pup

This one’s on the edge of acceptability, because Channing Day reportedly wrote a good part of it after he moved to Los Angeles, where he now resides. But it was about his life in Portland and growing up in Maine, he said, and Day was such a major player in Maine this past decade it would feel wrong to exclude him. “Slush” is a beat record described as “surrealist” (check the cover), and Day himself calls it a coming-of-age record, the result of having submitted his music to L.A.’s Low End Theory Beat Invitational from his home in the cold Maine winter. He was accepted, and he’s writing the rest of the story now.

Recommended track: “To My Friends”

23. Dominic and the Lucid, The Lucid (2011)


Shockingly, Dominic and the Lucid started playing together all the way back in 2002. That meant they had already swept through many style shifts before “The Lucid,” its 2011 album, which still stands as likely its mightiest of its catalog. It’s less jammy than the band’s earlier work, with Lavoie’s songwriting and sonorous vocals tilting the album into Jeff Buckley territory at times.

Recommended track: “Heliogram”

22. Chris Ross and the North, Young Once (2013)


After a decade playing in Penobscot County rock bands and a stint in Nashville, where he put out two solo records, the songwriter Chris Ross returned to Maine and found the North. His experience playing live was long and credentialed, so he patched together a rock band to help him flesh out his rough and tumble songs, which pulled no punches in their descriptions of Ross’s love of hard living. This time though, he hit the mark — “Young Once” is as honest a record as a Maine songwriter has put out this decade..

Recommended track: “Drunk Women”

21. Coke Weed, Back to Soft (2013)

Dump Duck Records

It’s a smart bit of branding that kept Bar Harbor’s Coke Weed lingering in your imagination when Mainers saw them on flyers, but anyone who metabolized this record knew its effects were hard to fade. The arresting indie-rock group was formed by singer Nina Donhia and guitarist Milan McAlevey, playing a plucky modern rendering of ‘60s psych rock led by Donghia’s haunting vocals.

Recommended track: “Anklet”

20. Alias, Pitch Black Prism (2014)


Try to find someone involved in the past 20 years of Maine hip hop who didn’t have something kind to say about Brendon Whitney, the hip-hop producer born in Portland to a jazz pianist and a church organist. While most point to his 2008 album “Resurgam” as an apex, his skills were even more equipped on 2014’s “Pitch Black Prism,” the last album he released before his sudden passing in March 2018.

Recommended track: “Amber Revisions”

19. Wesley Allen Hartley and the Traveling Trees, Narrow Gauge Quad Trains (2010)


The stripped-down batch of country-folk songs from Texas transplant Wes Hartley and his trio contains some of the former Dead End Armory frontman’s most affecting lyrics, from the dizzily verbose “Slow Shards” to the truly woeful “Acreless.” It’s a slowburn classic.

Recommended track: “Acreless”

18. Samuel James, And For the Dark Road Ahead (2012)

NorthernBlues Music

By the waning years of the past decade, everyone was already hyped to Samuel James the musician. But as this album progressed, they saw the artist elevate his work across a number of levels. A storyteller, prison justice advocate and internationally touring bluesman, James pieced it all together on his first album of the decade. This album marries his canny, winking wit to his deep knowledge of the history and context of the American blues, and the power that its proper treatment can have over a captive audience.

Recommended track: “Nineteen”

17. The Fogcutters, Big Band Syndrome Vol. 1: Live at the State Theatre (2012)


The Fogcutters mark the second of two live albums on this list, which is fitting, because that’s where bandleader John MacLain and his big band were built to thrive. This live album of the 19-piece band’s original big band jazz cuts would serve as a Kevin Bacon-like bedrock for Maine music (most longstanding bands are only two or three degrees away from a Fogcutter). Recording this album live at the State Theatre in 2011, it serves as a milestone for the revival of one of Maine’s most popular venues, which was revitalized in 2010.

Recommended track: “Back Home”

16. Falls of Rauros, Vigilance Perennial (2017)


It’s a dark sky that holds together the constellation of U.S. black metal, or USBM, but one of its most fiery stars is here in Maine. Forged in the Maine woods in 2005, the group fuses rural folk with dynamic, driving black metal that’s as satisfying and cathartic as anyone else in the conversation. “Vigilance Perennial” is one of three that could make this list, though it’s the most epic, the band letting their folk passages breathe for long stretches before diving into the darkest waters.

Recommended track: “Arrow & Kiln”

15. Jaw Gems, Blades Plural (2014)


Jaw Gems put out two more recent albums of national acclaim, but this one dropped when they still belonged to Maine. The quartet combined jazz with hip hop’s electronic production through the organic lens of a live set, which came to feel like the soundtrack to a certain shimmer of Portland nightlife for awhile. “Blades Plural” marked their glo-up from a humble house band playing Portland restaurant Local 188 every Tuesday night to the national act it is today, playing big venues and festival circuits and providing party soundtracks to the rest of the world.

Recommended track: “Akai Floss”

14. The Mallett Brothers Band, Lights Along the River (2015)


After a barnstorming debut and fine follow-up, the Mallett Brothers Band fully arrived on “Lights Along the River.” Brothers Luke and Will Mallett harvested their connections from the Maine music scene, where they had dabbled in rock, punk and hip hop, to make a profound and confident declaration. While the band would later weather some personnel changes, “Lights Along the River” found the Brothers at its steadiest and biggest-sounding to date.

Recommended track: “Don’t Mind the Morning” 

13. Phantom Buffalo, Tadaloora (2012)


Phantom Buffalo’s lead man Johnny Balzano-Brookes was one of the most central figures of Portland music in the past decade, building the imaginative indie-pop group Phantom Buffalo after signing with Rough Trade Records in 2004. Here, he’s built an entire universe, Tadaloora. Each song is part of an interwoven narrative that articulates the various creatures that reside there, and the relationships, gestures and inner lives that make up their society.

Recommended track: “Horse Named Reginald”

12. Lyle Divinsky, Uneven Floors (2015)


In possession of a criminally good voice, Lyle Divinsky sang for Model Airplane, the house band at the Big Easy and Portland House of Music, for ages. Then he put out this excellent indie-soul record, which boasts more than 20 cellists, horn players, vocalists and other players. It was on the strength of this album that Divinsky would be recruited to front Denver’s longstanding funk and Afrobeat band The Motet, where he remains today — with the exception of a sellout show or three whenever he returns home.

Recommended track: “Fallin’” 

11. Sunset Hearts, wwwindswept (2014)


Assembled by former Satellite Lot frontman Casey McCurry in 2010, the contemporary new wave act Sunset Hearts stormed out of the courtyard with a colossal sounding dance record. After some personnel changes, the group made an even better follow up with 2014’s “wwwindswept,” an album of big payoff pop anthems steered by keyboardist wizard Jesse Hautala, propulsive drummer Max Heinz and McCurry’s songwriting and singing prowess.

Recommended track: “History is History”

10. Murcielago, Murcielago (2014)


Murcielago is an accessible, hard-rock band, dripping with Josh Homme influences and thick with pummeling, low-end density. These are all musicians and gearheads who have played integral roles in Maine music for decades, often with less heavy bands, so Murcielago’s one album is infused with a sort of indulgence. They broke up soon after the release of this mighty full length, but the group still packs a house on its strength every year for an annual reunion. 

Recommended track: “Way Too Far”

9. Theodore Treehouse, Mercury, Closest to the Sun (2010)


Theodore Treehouse came out of nowhere and made an immediate mark. Fronted by charismatic Ian Ferrel, they played an irresistible and energetic indie rock with bluegrassy undertones and punked-up energy. A subsequent live album would capture some of the magic, but the Treehouse would split up soon after, releasing another little blast of an EP. But this first and only full-length remains an absolute delight.

Recommended track: “Two Hands”

8. Weakened Friends, Common Blah (2018)

Don Giovanni

Anything that Sonio Sturino touches turns to gold. The Portland singer and guitarist was tremendous in Box Tiger, the defunct power-pop band that split time between Portland and Toronto. And she’s the star of Weakened Friends, a three-piece alt-rock group, whose new album Common Blah captured young punkers’ hearts nationwide last fall (it even wowed Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis). The band bounces back and forth between here and Boston, but they’re enough of the real deal that Maine should claim them for its own.

Recommended track: “Peel”

7. Zach Jones, Things Were Better (2012)


Before half the country would build its algorithms with neo-soul artists such as Leon Bridges, Portland artist Zach Jones put out this batch of originals in the style of ‘60s Motown and Stax records. Like most of the best records on this list, he’s backed by an all-star crew of Portland players, including Max Cantlin (the Fogcutters, Model Airplane), Kate Beever (Jeff Beam), Bryan Brash (Amarantos Quartet) and Anthony Drouin (the Lazy Susans). But it’s Jones who truly shines here, and his delightful croon leads an album that would soon lead him to Los Angeles.

Recommended track: “Wish I Could Dance”

6. The Ghost of Paul Revere, Monarch (2017)


Portland’s homegrown bluegrass and holler-folk group figured it all out here. “Monarch” is a steady mix of bluegrass, gospel, holler folk and Americana, primed for mass appeal yet keeping a dose of the rowdiness that has been there since its early storming. Even in today’s fractured music industry, bandleader Griffin Sherry, bassist Sean McCarthy, banjo player Max Davis and, on this record, drummer Tony McNaboe are proof that a band can rise from Portland’s bar scene to playing “Conan” in seven years.

Recommended track: “Montreal”

5. Metal Feathers, Handful of Fog (2013)



This is one of the most interesting and mysterious bands in Maine music history. It formed in 2008 after frontman Jay Lobley’s departure dissolved Cult Maze, the too-good indie-rock group that broke up in 2008. The circumspect Lobley then formed Metal Feathers with his brother Derek on keys, Diamond Sharp principal Jason Rogers on bass and Althea Pajak on drums. Its first album, available on streaming services, is spectacular, but this follow up captured the band in a critical flashpoint, having trimmed to a three-piece with Derek taking over on drums for Pajak, who would later join the all-femme punk band English Muffins. “Handful of Fog” was released on LP only, keeping it nicely tucked in a shroud, but it’s worth the effort of tracking down.

Recommended track: “This Band is a Secret”

4. Rustic Overtones, Self Titled (2019)


The sudden death in March of David Noyes, founding member of the Rustic Overtones and collaborator on countless musical projects since the ‘90s, left an irreplaceable hole in the Maine music scene. The collective expression of love and grief could be felt throughout the city. The other members of Rustic, the state’s most popular longstanding musical act, did the thing it was meant to do, making a record suffused with the energy of Noyes, an avid music historian collector with a deep reverence for international music. The group added horn player Jamie Colpoys, and reportedly built a full-length album using the notes that Noyes would leave for himself. The result is the most exciting and dexterous album of the band’s career.

Recommended track: “Bossanova”

3. Milo, budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies (2018)

Ruby Yacht

After spending a decade rocketing up to the indie-rap A-list, Milo, aka Rory Ferreira, moved back to Maine in 2017. A new father, he opened Soulfolks, a studio and record store next to a great Vietnamese restaurant on Main Street in Biddeford, right near where he’d grown up. It was from here that he brought us this incredible full-length, low-key tribute to Charlie Parker and the last, he said, he would release under the Milo name. It’s a clear new chapter for Ferreira, and it shows. The flip observations and quixotic philosophizing that would define his early are still there, but Milo’s rhymes have heightened intention now, a palpable understanding of the work that needs to be done. He proclaimed upon arrival that he was Maine’s poet laureate, and while one of those already exists, who among us would disagree?

Recommended track: “galahad in goosedown (fiat iustitia et pereat mundus)”

2. Lady Lamb, Ripely Pine (2013)

Ba Da Bing!

Before she became Lady Lamb, a New York City indie-rock phenom, Aly Spaltro worked in a video store in Brunswick. After hours, she’d write and record the demos for what would become this album. One of the most guitar-forward albums on this list, “Ripely Pine” was compared to Jeff Buckley and Helium upon its release, and the heart-on-sleeve vulnerability and complex sonic density that Spaltro gave us here is exactly why it’s still worth coming back to today.

Recommended track: “Aubergine”

1. Spose, The Audacity! (2012)


A lot of people think Spose’s career took off with “I’m Awesome” — but it’s not true. That 2010 “comedy hip hop” bopper got the 24-year-old signed to a major label after execs saw it blowing up Maine radio stations (and it did well, reaching No. 37 on the Billboard Top 100). But Spose’s decade would really begin with “The Audacity!,” a 2012 album he wrote and released on his own after leaving Universal Republic Records less than a year after joining. From that point, the white rapper from Wells named Ryan Peters would truly launch his empire. Spose released 17 full-length albums this past decade, plus countless singles and even a children’s book, and his tireless efforts to establish himself (and his friends) on his P-Dank label has likely made him Maine’s most popular artist.

Recommended track: “Knocking on Wood”


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