8:20 a.m. Weekday Commute: Best Local Album to Challenge Your Assumptions 

Mr. Lif, I Phantom

There are lots of reasons I Phantom by Oakland/Boston's Mr. Lif has gotten so much attention, not the least of which are his association with Definitive Jux Records and the fact that El-P, the underground media's answer to Eminem, helped produce his album. But whittle away all the hype and you have an amazing record with layers and layers of meaning, perfect for a solo drive, an existential Sunday morning, or deep thoughts on the treadmill. Lif is too smart for his own good; each song tells a story, and taken together these stories combine into a moving take on the spoils of capitalism that manages to avoid sounding clichéd. The beats and percussion are phenomenal, turning old school on its head a bit and then dropping it down into a dark, brooding library of ideas. The East Bay should be glad to have him.

Readers' Pick for Best Local Album: The Matches -- E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals

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