BYU

Gawking at the Y: Taking BYU Seriously

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Local

BYU has an image problem, but it doesn’t seem to know it. Or maybe it just doesn’t care.

On the university’s home page recently — as well as in the alumni email I got earlier this month — I read about a new study by professors Jason Carroll and Brian Willoughby that argues that waiting until marriage to have sex benefits couples later on. The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

The study was probably legit. It was published in a reputable journal, and my experience as a student at BYU (for more years than I care to admit) was that professors genuinely try to do serious scholarly work.

But whatever the study actually included, the uber-popular news website Gawker discovered it and expressed suspicion over how the scientific research “hews so closely to the Mormon church’s position on sex before marriage.”

All organizations draw some flack from time to time, but the point Gawker makes is one worth taking seriously. After all, if BYU wants to be a top tier school, an example to other institutions, and a leader in the sciences, perception does matter. And Gawker, though not the biggest media portal out there, is a major news player. In reality, many more people have undoubtedly read the Gawker piece than have or will read the study itself.

Empirates

The Next Best Thing (Part 2)

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Local, Music

You may have read my previous article dated several months back with a similar title. You may have even liked it and are ready for round two. But it’s far more likely that you have never seen the first part of this multi-article compendium and are jumping in right here, so here’s my little disclaimer:

Provo may seem quaint at times, but underneath it all there is talent that stretches far beyond these city walls. This series of articles aims to bring attention to all the musical good that’s been quickly growing, and even more quickly now that bands like Neon Trees have trailblazed the way to nationwide — if not worldwide — success.

So without further ado, I present to you two more of this town’s Next Best Things.

BYU

CULTURE: Provo-Bound Syndromes: The Many Culture-Bound Syndromes of BYU

Written by Kristin Clift on . Posted in Local

Culture-bound syndromes (CBS) are cultural-specific acute behavioral disorders that are familiar as a disease or a mental condition in that population, but are not typically recognized outside of that society. What is crazy in one culture is not necessarily crazy in another.

CBS’s often display neurophysiological symptoms — both psychiatric and somatic responses. Arctic hysteria is one that is frequently studied, or a more well-known example of a CBS in the United States is anorexia nervosa or bulimia.1 Culture-bound syndromes are reputed to be induced by stress that occurs when there is an incongruity between role expectations and how a person feels they measure up to those expectations.

As a participant-observer in the bizarre culture that is Provo, I’ve often heard people describe students at BYU as “the cream of the crop.” Granted, any student at any university probably feels pressure to excel from parents, peers and teachers — but BYU students have the added pressure of a common religion in which strict moral standards are known and enforced.

There are certain side effects resulting from this situation that spur a cultural epitome of lifestyle.2 In reality, fluctuations from the norm are bound to happen in such a population. However, the bar has already been set and many people find themselves falling short of rigid cultural envisages. Such high expectations are the perfect recipe for mass neuroses of cataclysmic proportions.

Now that we have some of the anthropological mumbo-jumbo out of the way, let’s examine a few of the syndemic nuances limited to the BYU/Provo culture , or Provo-bound syndromes:

Obsessive Dating Compulsion Disorder: If you observe Provo City itself, you will notice that many of the surrounding retail businesses are marketed towards facilitating courtship rituals. An outsider might consider Provo obsessed with dating and completely fixated on marriage as the end goal.

From my time as a participant-observer, I can’t remember a single BYU devotional in which dating/marriage was not mentioned. I’ve had professors encourage students to date and even offered extra credit to do so. The pressure to participate in courtship rituals is so palpable it’s impossible to ignore.

Old Maid Stigma: A product of the Obsessive Dating Compulsion Disorder, the Old Maid Stigma arises from feelings of inadequacy or guilt for not being married or not dating as frequently as expected. This stigma occurs in the young female population in Provo.

Typically the Old Maid Stigma is expressed at a comparatively young age — I’ve heard females as young as 19 express their feelings of insufficiency for being single. The Old Maid Stigma is sometimes self-inflicted, although informants discussed with me the interrogations they receive pertaining to their marital status on a constant basis.

Pedestrian Deviancies: Pedestrians at BYU have a reputation for being oblivious to traffic, so much so that they have been dubbed “Zoodestrians.” This behavior can mostly be attributed to general distractions and absent-mindedness; However, I’ve heard it conjectured that it comes from the feeling of invincibility — being protected by God.

RM Adjustment Syndrome: Adjusting to life after a mission can be extremely difficult for some people.  Essentially, missionaries are prescribed a certain role with rigorous duties to fulfill, and transitioning to another role (that of a returned missionary) is sometimes an arduous process. Returned missionaries cope with the adjustment in various ways. Some find laborious door-knocking reminiscent of their mission days and become salesmen.

BYU Big Brother Paranoia: Like unto Orwell’s 1984, students and professors are paranoid of BYU Big Brother. One line in the school’s Honor Code (“Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code”) certainly doesn’t help ease this paranoia. I’ve seen professors look around suspiciously while they whisper opinions to their class in fear of an eavesdropping institution. This paranoia is rumored to have come from the Wilkinson era where purported “spies” were placed in classrooms to ensure that professors were not teaching heretical ideas.

Suppressed Rage Against University Parking Enforcement: Here, here, here and here. Enough said.

The discordance between role performance and role expectations is the basis of these neuroses, which is subsequently compounded by the dialectal relationship of the religion, the institution, and the people. These are just some of the many culture-bound syndromes that inflict the idiosyncratic culture that is Provo. And that’s why I love it.

———————

1 You wouldn’t find anyone in Ethiopia barfing up meals on purpose.
2 Quintessential checklist: go to BYU, go on a mission, get married immediately thereafter, and reproduce like rabbits.

mudbison 2

MUSIC: The Next Best Thing (Part 1)

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Local, Music

Thanks to the recent stammering success of Provo-based Neon Trees, our town has gotten a bit more attention. Not much, but a bit.

The Trees have exploded on the national music scene well enough to have scored appearances on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live, toured with The Killers, 30 Seconds to Mars and Mutemath, and had their single “Animal” placed on Billboard’s Hot 100… and much more. I’m sure there are plenty of fans of theirs that are reading this and are mentally listing all their major accomplishments I’ve missed.

But this article isn’t about Neon Trees.  It’s about what we have coming next.

Because of them, Provo may be getting a different eye from the music industry — and we just so happen to have a couple good things in the mix to surprise them with. As some of you know, several bands based (or at least at one time based) out of Utah County made it into this years SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, one of the biggest annual festivals in the nation. Music from other local bands has been heard on MTV and other network television shows — and if you think we’ve exhausted our resources, you’re simply out of your mind.

At one time I was convinced that our town was one of the weaker music scenes in the States, but compared percentage-wise to other larger cities, we’ve got a pretty good track record so far. So, for your information, I’ve compiled a couple interviews with bands that have dug their feet into the rocky ground of the music industry and are ready to show the world what they’ve got.

More than a couple of these bands have already been featured by Rhombus, of course, but before you complain and post your disdainful commentary below, know that this is not another album or concert review — this is a compendium of some noteworthy acts whose names you’re most likely to see around soon in more magazines than this one.

Mudbison
Their name bound to be bigger than the animal it refers to, Mudbison has made some pretty big leaps recently. Spencer Russell –brother of Columbia-signed folk artist Isaac Russell — has been working his arse off on getting things in line, such as recording/mixing/mastering, pumping out music videos, and trying to get a tour off the ground. All the hard work is paying off though, as is evident by conducting a simple YouTube search and finding that the band’s very newly added videos have already garnered over 5,000 views collectively. It’d be my guess that not all of those are just from Provo either.

Upon being asked what drives him to keep working at his music career, Russell replies, “Maybe it’s teaching people morals I’ve learned through the stories I write. Maybe it’s my love for writing a tune that gives people chills. It’s probably both. Aesthetic pleasure is something I love to give, and this is the best way, I guess.”

Style: Indie pop, singer/songwriter
Sounds like: Badly Drawn Boy meets Sufjan Stevens meets Beck
Likely labels to see them on:
Asthmatic Kitty, XL Recordings, Sub Pop Records
Strongest weapon: A killer album, Russell’s ingenious songwriting ability
Biggest accomplishment: Their unique sound
Network/Connections: With a brother signed to Columbia Records and a father deeply ingrained in the film industry, Russell is likely to get his band’s music into good hands.

Imagine Dragons
I don’t know of any band that has received a quicker hype than these guys. Coming out of a victory at BYU’s Battle of the Bands in late 2009, they had achieved “Provo fame” within a few short months and began packing Velour and other venues/events to the brim shortly thereafter. After a move to Las Vegas and a couple lineup changes, ID is now the fastest growing band in Sin City — but they still aren’t content.

Lately they’ve been hitting areas nearby like L.A., Phoenix and San Francisco, all while maintaining their huge fan base here in Utah. Don’t think for a second that Imagine Dragons will fall by the wayside — you’ll soon be seeing their records everywhere you look.

Style: Indie pop/rock
Sounds like:
The Killers thrown back to a Tears for Fears/Depeche Mode concert.
Likely labels: Warner Music Group, EMI
Strongest weapon: A plethora of involved fans.
Biggest accomplishment: Showcased at SXSW 2010, shared stage with Blue October, Jet, Kelly Clarkson, Presidents of the U.S., and more.
Network/Connections: Friends — and relatives — in high places.

Eyes Lips Eyes
Having just a couple days ago changed their name from ER (which had been changed from Elizabethan Report), Eyes Lips Eyes has been cooking what you’ve been smelling. After playing a couple shows with these guys, I can attest to the level of professionalism and skill they have — things that undoubtedly will help them achieve their goal of making music their sole income. That’s what influenced their decision to move to L.A. last summer, and what continues to push them now as they have raised their marketing to a whole new level.

Spencer, the band’s guitarist, gives this piece of advice to other bands that are trying to make a living out of music: “In the end, the stuff that works the best is the stuff that no one has tried yet. So being willing to venture out and take some risks with promotion ends up paying off in the end. Once people catch up, though, you have to find something new.”

Style: Dance rock, indie/alternative
Sounds like: Interpol gets in a food fight with Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Likely labels: EMI, Warner Bros., Matador Records
Strongest weapon: Their stage energy coupled with their promoting energy.
Biggest accomplishment: Shows with The Raconteurs, Spoon, The Black Keys, Bob Dylan, and releasing two albums.
Network/Connections: Have found good friends while in LA, but no shew-ins — They’ve succeeded through blood, sweat and tears alone.

Stay tuned for some more bands to be featured in this 3-part series.

Bday

Celebrating Our Birthday (With a Little Isaac Russell)

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Local, Music

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking: “Rhombus has been pretty sketchy lately, what with all the disappearing for long periods of time with little to no explanation. What kind of publication does that?” And to that I would answer: ours, apparently.

Sure, it’s been a little rough lately; As a not-for-profit, volunteer-operated organization, Rhombus often takes a back seat to other things when life gets busy. Is it desirable? No. Is it reality? Unfortunately, yes. But regardless of how busy life gets or how intermittent the posting schedule sometimes becomes, we’ll continue to do our best to fulfill our original mission of bringing you intelligent and interesting writing on the topics you actually care about — now and in the months and years to come.

Running an online publication in the era of the 24-hour news cycle is not easy. Consistently feeding the beast is a foreboding and persistent challenge. And we’re certainly not perfect at it, but we’ll continue to try and hopefully you will stick with us through the rough patches. After all, the fact that Rhombus still exists and some people actually still care now, a year after our initial launch, is quite a miracle in and of itself.

Truthfully, it’s a miracle that would have never happened without people faithfully reading the articles, sharing them online with their friends, talking them up at shows and gatherings, and always coming back for more. In essence, the message is this: We don’t survive without you — and, as is evidenced by this post, we’re still surviving.  So thank you. Thanks for sticking around. Thanks for a great first year — one we hope to improve upon moving forward.

Now, as a wonderful birthday present to us (and even an early/late one to you), enjoy a new video I discovered on the Web today from Rhombus favorite Isaac Russell and have now embedded below. In our vaunted opinion, there’s no better celebration music than the sweet, sweet tunes of Sir Isaac of Russell. Happy birthday to us!

Fictionist

MUSIC: Album Review: Fictionist, Lasting Echo

Written by Scott Manning on . Posted in Local, Music

I must first say it’s wonderful that we do, on occasion, find some diversity in the indie folk-laden market we call the Provo music scene.  This particular occasion is brought to you by Fictionist.

If you have not yet heard of Fictionist and have lived or been going to school in Provo for more than six months, you’ve probably been covering your eyes and your ears, because they’re everywhere. Walk to campus, I guarantee you’ll see at least three of their posters. Maybe on your way back you’ll catch some of the sidewalk chalk at the intersections advertising for their upcoming shows. And if you’ve been reading The Daily Universe at all in the past while, you’ll have read their name in various articles and perhaps taken a gander at their photo on the front page.  They’ve developed a knack for getting the word out, and it’s obvious that it works — their local shows often have an attendance in the hundreds.

For those that have not been under a rock lately, you’ll have already taken note of the psychedelic posters plastered on telephone poles and street lights all around and why they’re up. Fictionist’s new full-length album, Lasting Echo, was recently officially released. But if you want to know what you’re getting into, look no further. Welcome to Fictionist’s Lasting Echo, the official Rhombus review.

Minimalist. Simple. Superficial. Such words could never apply to a description of this album, evident even within the first 30 seconds of sound. “Always,” the album’s first track, is nothing short of an out-of-body vacation through space and beyond, with its intricately layered guitar work and complex rhythms. There is one part where the song arrives at a familiar four-beat pattern, but that quickly goes away and you are left swimming in the enormity that is the world — or lack of world — that Fictionist creates for you. It is out there you will stay for the entirety of the album.

Things calm down with the next track, “Human Wings,” which has a radio-ready feel due to its easy-listening quality, letting the listener stand on some solid ground and catch their breath. Continuing onward you run into effect-heavy songs such as “Blue-Eyed Universe” (my least favorite of the ten), “Time to Time,” “Deeper and Deeper,” and “Fire Don’t Set You Free.” These songs contain the signature sound Fictionist aims for, and it is doubtful anyone but them could ever figure out how to recreate it. (If you’ve been to one of their live shows, you know how crowded it looks once all six of them, their instruments, and their oodles of effects pedals are on stage.) Mixed in between these songs are gems such as “Sunshine of a Shell” and “Strangers in the Dark,” which both offer ballad-like qualities with the way they build up to a worthy climax.

Throughout the album are a few new tricks Fictionist has put into action.  One difference fans will quickly realize when comparing Lasting Echo to the band’s first album Invisible Hand is lead singer Stuart Maxfield’s vocals; there is a ton more passion, and a more liberal use of dynamics such as volume and pitch give this album a surprising twist. You may also notice Fictionist seem to have discovered what Coldplay learned long ago — the organ is a very handy tool.  Though not present in every song, it’s obvious they’ve taken tips from albums like X&Y, where the organ is utilized like a basecoat for an elaborate painting.

The lyrics match the complexity of the music and remind me an awful lot of the poetry of Carl Sandburg, if not a tad more ambiguous. And though Fictionist is not the first place I would think to find a love song, few songwriters exist that can produce such elegant wording as “If I ever saw a reflection of God, it was when you saved me from all the things I was.”

My major complaint with this album is its lack of punch. Overall the album is strong, but there is no one song that feels solid enough to hold up on its own, like “Tightrope Hill” was for Invisible Hand. There are some bands that are pushing so hard for the success of their singles that their album as a whole comes short; this album seems to have the opposite issue. There are certainly tracks I enjoy and I appreciate the musicianship in all of them, but after finishing the album there are no hooks that ring out in my mind, nothing that has stuck.

Ultimately I give Lasting Echo a 7.5 out of 10 — it failed to strike me down with excitement and wonder, but it did not disappoint in the least. I likely will appreciate it more and more as I continue listening and unwrapping the many layers.

“But,” as our friend LeVar Burton says in our favorite educational television show, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” Go to one of their local shows and see for yourself. If you find any money in your pocket, you’ll probably come home with their CD.

Scott Manning is a music correspondent for Rhombus.

LOCAL: Nu Skinning: In Downtown Provo, Bigger Isn't Necessarily Better

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Local

A few months ago, some friends from out of town came to visit and, as we drove past the still-unfinished Zion’s Bank building, they wondered aloud why such a quaint town would erect such a large eyesore. Though I got defensive (we need the jobs, I thought — and besides, they were outsiders), the underlying assumptions of their statement were worth taking seriously: bigger and newer isn’t always better.

This year, Provo will be putting that idea to the test. A few days ago, The Daily Herald broke the news that Nu Skin will be expanding its downtown facilities and operations. The article provides a number of details, but the most important are probably that the expansion would involve Nu Skin purchasing and replacing a number of older buildings in the downtown area, and that the Provo City Council is pretty enthusiastic about the idea.

In many respects, the Nu Skin expansion will indeed be a positive thing for Provo. I’ve mentioned before in Rhombus how dismal downtown Provo has become, and anything that puts more people on the streets has to be seriously considered. Even though the expansion looks like it won’t create a lot of new jobs beyond some temporary construction work — it appears to be more of a consolidation of existing workers into one place — it should still theoretically benefit fantastic places like Sammy’s, Stumpy Burger, and Gurus. All in all, the expansion should put more people, money and activity into the struggling area. According to the Herald article, Nu Skin also seems genuinely interested in creating a usable, aesthetically-pleasing community space.

Yet before the city rushes to raze large swaths of Center Street, it’s worth considering what the trade-offs will be. Though I truly believe Nu Skin is well intentioned, I’m not necessarily thrilled about the proposed construction plans. An atrium? A large, six-story building? Maybe these structures will be beautiful, but Nu Skin’s current headquarters has a distinct sleek-but-kitschy aspect to it. They’ve also somehow managed to get their logo painted in the middle of downtown intersections without getting busted for vandalism. Of course, in some areas both the logo and the building would feel right at home; however, Provo has hitched its wagon to the idea of an “Historic Downtown.” Won’t fancy glass buildings look kind of garish among the older structures? Don’t they already?

What causes me the most ambivalence about this whole thing is that no one seems to have even asked questions about the symbolic and historic implications of this expansion. Instead, everyone has indicated progress means tearing down the past to make room for the new. I was astonished, for example, to read Kim Anderson of Provo Art and Frame say “we really need to invest in downtown Provo and get rid of the old nasty squeaky floor buildings and get something that’s sellable and rentable.”

We should certainly invest, but why does that mean destroying all the old buildings? The fact is that Provo has thus far demonstrated an abysmal track record when it comes to historical preservation. In 2004, Hotel Roberts was torn down — in the middle of the night, no less — after it had been allowed to become dilapidated and unsafe. In 2007, St. Francis Roman Catholic Church suffered the same fate. Progress is typically messy and controversial, but these building were landmarks and when I heard about the Nu Skin expansion I couldn’t help but wonder if Provo was setting itself up for another, similar travesty at some point. If the prevailing attitude is that old, “squeaky floor” buildings cannot co-exist with revitalization, then it’s only a matter of time before “Historic Downtown” becomes history.

Ultimately, Provo needs more businesses in the downtown area, and though I’m not particularly a fan of Nu Skin’s business model, I applaud them for sticking with the community. What’s more (and as much as I love charming little bookshops and cafes), attracting companies like Nu Skin might be the only way to keep the city’s center alive (or to resuscitate it). For many permanent residents, this sort of thing also really makes up a lot of Provo’s lifeblood. Still, even if the expansion proceeds, it’s worth asking what the community will have to forfeit. What will be left in a generation or two to remind Provo citizens of the area’s rich history? What of its heritage does Provo want to remember? Will future residents even be able to see why downtown was worth revitalizing in the first place?

Jim Dalrymple is a regular correspondent for Rhombus.

Review: Tartuffe

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Local

After having lived in Provo for a couple years, I have come to develop a deep-rooted concern for cultural welfare of BYU students and the general population of those in Utah Valley. Now I know that I am not the most cultured person in the world, but I recognize the lack of value for entertainment that is thought-provoking and stimulating.

In an area where dates and weekend activities are purely based on cost and not quality, people are more likely to go see G.I. Joe for a buck rather than see a play that will cost them $10. If you enjoy mindless spectacle and exploding buildings, then the dollar theater is the place for you. However, I believe there are a few of you out there that actually have a few ounces of self-respect and are willing to pay a couple bucks more to do or see something worthwhile.

For those of you who fit into this second category, I strongly recommend that you go see BYU’s production of Moliere’s Tartuffe. Not only is it thought-provoking and engaging, but it is also significantly more fun than going to the movies. I lost count of the number of times I laughed out loud and not once did I check the time.

The play is centered on a man, Orgon, who has decided to disown his son and make a pious holy man named Tartuffe his one and only heir. It turns out Tartuffe is an infamous fraud and Orgon’s family tries to convince him to sever ties with the imposter before it is too late.

Not only is this play one of the finest works of French Neo-Classicism, but this is also one of best performances I have ever seen at BYU. Everything about this show is top notch, from the stellar performances by Andrew Veenstra (Tartuffe) and Dallin Allred (Orgon) to the unique set design. Trust me when I say you will be surprised by the talent on display in this performance. BYU has always been known for its singers and dancers, but it’s time the students and alumni recognize the students in the theater department for their acting prowess.

The style of the play takes concepts from many different time periods and mixes in modern elements that make certain ideas more relatable to the audience. Director Stephanie Breinholt said Cirque de Soleil and Tim Burton were two of the main influences of the performance. If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention the original music, written by cast member David John Banks, that adds to the plays amusing personality.

While this play will make you laugh with its quick-witted humor, it will also make you think. There are many things the audience will take away from this performance, but one of the overall themes is that of religious hypocrisy, a topic that is always very relevant for us here in Provo.

So, my culture-seeking friends, do yourself a favor and go see Tartuffe before it closes this weekend. As economically appealing as a dollar movie sounds, this performance is well worth the extra couple dollars.

Tartuffe will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on BYU campus in the Pardoe Theatre in the HFAC until Feb. 6th. Purchase tickets online at byuarts.com/tickets or call the ticket office at 801-422-4322.

Jake Welch is a regular correspondent for Rhombus.

LOCAL: 2009 Readers' Choice Awards Winners!

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Film, Local, Music, Sports

Readers' Choice

The people have voted and their voices have been heard — the winners of the 2009 Rhombus Readers’ Choice Awards are finally ready to be unveiled!

However, before we do so, let me say a word about the voting process. There have recently been rumblings about accusations of all sorts of heinous ballot-stuffing and whatnot among the nominees, and I’d like to take a moment to say those things might be true — but, regardless of who put out Facebook messages urging their legions of adoring fans to vote, that does not undermine the integrity of the results.

Sure, the “best” band may or may not have won, but who can really say who is the “best,” as all art (and everything, really) is wholly subjective? That was not the premise of this poll — I don’t pretend that these little awards represent absolute authority on local culture. They don’t. If you really wanted to win, all you had to do was convince all the people who think you’re the best (see, still subjective!) to vote for you, and everyone had an equal opportunity to do so. (But, in reality, isn’t that the gist of any democratic election? Convincing the maximum number of people that think you’re the “best” to cast a ballot in your favor?)

As a result of this process, we had some fun and produced the results listed below. I don’t expect everyone to agree with them — hell, I don’t necessarily agree with them (as is abundantly clear here.) But that’s not the point. We’re not out to crown the kings and/or queens of Provo. We just want to know what the people (whoever they may be) think — and they have spoken.

So, without further ado, your winners of the 2009 Rhombus Readers’ Choice Awards (or rather, those who convinced the most people who think they’re the “best” to actually vote for them)…

Best Artist (Folk/Country): Moses (formerly Drew Capener)
After a whirlwind year that included forming as a full band, taking second at Velour’s Winter Battle of the Bands, and recording an album with Joshua James, Moses’ brand of firewater folk-rock seems to have whet our readers’ appetites. Consider us excited too.

Best Artist (Rock/Pop): Vinyl Club
Though they may still be mired in their teenage years, Vinyl Club is one of the local scene’s most promising young acts. Combining a myriad of different musical styles to create something uniquely their own, these upstarts are thankfully just getting started.

Best Album (Folk/Country): Seafinch, Who’s Going to Hold You in the Evening
We’ve made no attempt to hide our admiration for Asher Seevinck’s swoon-inducing collection of Christian folk songs. Even (or perhaps especially) if the bluster of Christian rock isn’t your cup of tea, you owe it to yourself to hear this beautifully constructed EP.

Best Album (Rock/Pop): Fictionist, Invisible Hand
Formerly known as Good Morning Maxfield, these guys have built one of the local scene’s largest and most ardent fan bases — a literal army of Fictionist foot-soldiers ready to mobilize to any show anywhere in support of their heroes. While their unique brand of experimental rock has inspired some stark divisions of opinion between the faithful and the non-believers, there’s no doubt that a lot of people love what Fictionist do — and they do it extraordinarily well.

Best Music Venue: Velour Live Music Gallery
Boasting some of the best ambience and coolest decor (not to mention the best acoustics) around, Velour has quickly become the go-to venue for many artists and concertgoers alike. Owner Corey Fox has been working with local bands since the early 1990s and his excellent venue will undoubtedly continue to benefit many artists for years to come.

Best Restaurant: Gloria’s Little Italy
This race was one of the closest. Both Pizzeria Seven Twelve and Guru’s got a lot of love from their respective fans, but it was ultimately Gloria’s Little Italy that snatched victory at the last minute. Located on the corner of University Ave. and Center Street in downtown Provo, Gloria’s does Italian food right — and at a reasonable price. If you’re in the mood for some authentic Italian cooking and maybe a little gelato, Gloria’s is the place for you.

Best Movie Theater: (TIE) Cinemark University Mall, Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons
The readers just couldn’t decide on a winner here, and I don’t know how much more there is to say. They’re both movie theaters and they’re both big. One is close by, the other has an IMAX screen. Which is better? I guess it’s just a matter of preference.

Best Clothing Store: Urban Outfitters
For some strange reason, I am in no way surprised that Urban Outfitters took this category by a very wide margin. As everything “indie” (read: music, fashion, fixed-gear bicycle-riding, etc.) has become increasingly “mainstream” — whatever those terms mean — over the last year or so, Urban has become the shopping destination for many an aspiring hipster. No one has made more money off selling skinny jeans, flannel shirts and floppy hats to the general public, indicating that what was once elitist, snobby and exclusive is now the new Abercrombie & Fitch. (I mean, Phoenix is on Gossip Girl, everyone and their dog is now wearing what just two years ago would have been derisively labeled “girl jeans,” and ironic mustaches are no longer all that ironic. Think about it.)

Best Hang-out: Velour Live Music Gallery
Same story, different category. Apparently Velour just RULEZ!

Best Trend: Sushi
I’ve never been one for sushi (despite my love of seafood), but it seems people like it even more than they like the aforementioned “girl jeans.” Though the raw fish dish beat out the skinny-jeaned supertrend by just one measly vote, Japan declares victory nonetheless.

Best Sports Moment: Real Salt Lake wins MLS Cup
Real Salt Lake’s victory in this category can only be attributed (in my mind) to one of three potential causes: a) the two BYU football nominees split the vote between them, b) our readership is generally sick of BYU football, or c) RSL’s championship was actually pretty awesome. I’ll avoid making a prediction and go with all of the above.

Best Event: Battle of the Bands at Velour Live Music Gallery
Everyone loves new music and there’s no better way to find great new local bands than Velour’s semi-annual Battle of the Bands competitions. December’s contest introduced to a bunch of promising acts, including Vinyl Club, NightNight, Moses and the Archers’ Apple, among others. These relatively new artists (and those that will inevitably follow in their wake) will be the ones to shape the local scene in the coming year and carry Provo into a new decade of limitless possibilities. Count me in.

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus.