Posts Tagged ‘2009’

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.

FILM: Year in Review: Best Movies of 2009

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

The Brothers Bloom

You’ve seen “Best Of” lists for the past few weeks. I have to say I get a little confused when top ten lists are published in the middle of December. What about the prestige films that aren’t released until the last few weekends of the year?

Clearly, I waited.

And so now, finally, here are the best films of 2009 — in gloriously ascending order.

10. 17 Again
This was a film that didn’t have to be good. It was riding on Zach Efron’s fabulous success in the High School Musical movies, and that’s what drove the bulk of its success. But it was good — very good. Clever, well-written, touching, and featuring a Zach Efron who turns out to be a pretty remarkable actor. I reviewed it on my humble little blog after I saw it for the first time (I’ve now seen it thrice) and you can go read that review here.

9. Coraline
In the category of animation, Pixar usually takes almost the whole cake every year. However, a gorgeous study in stop-motion, Coraline is very definitely not from that camp. And not so much for kids, either, if they’re faint of heart. But it was an impressive film that I enjoyed even more the second time around, which is a great litmus test for whether a film has any real value.

8. Where the Wild Things Are
A whole lot of people didn’t like this film, and I understand that completely. But the fact is that this film accomplished something I’ve never really seen. It was a children’s film to a degree and in a way that no other film has been. You can read a longer version of my thoughts here.

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Up is not on this list. Let me say that up front, before I talk about yet another animated film that showed Pixar doesn’t completely rule the world. And then instead of talking about it, I’ll just direct you to my review, written during the Thanksgiving season, a holiday into which this delightful film fits rather snugly.

6. Up in the Air
Remember when I talked about the top ten lists that fail to include the late-comers? This film is one of the reasons I waited until now to compile this list. Jason Reitman is now three-for-three. He started with Thank You for Smoking, before moving on to Juno, and now Up in the Air. He has a way of capturing issues facing society that are very poignant and presenting them in a way that sinks down into audiences, brings them together, and helps them figure stuff out. Expect a lengthier review soon.

5. Star Trek
The fact that I didn’t slot this at number one proves that this was a pretty good year. Better than expected. Anyway, I don’t think I need to say anything more than I’ve already said. You’ve seen it, and loved it (and if you haven’t, well, I don’t know what else I can do for you.)

4. Gentlemen Broncos
I adored this film, but you already knew that. If you didn’t, go read this.

3. (500) Days of Summer
Roger Ebert has a problem with the formatting of the title of this film. He thinks the parentheses are pretentious. I don’t. I love them — but nowhere near as much as I loved the film itself. I think this is the romantic comedy of my generation. It was one of those films I couldn’t stop thinking about. I still can’t stop thinking about it. And this may not make sense, but I’m somehow proud of this film — as though I had something to do with its creation, which is absurd, but revealing. Here’s a link to my actual review.

2. The Hurt Locker
Easily the best film about the Iraq War thus far, The Hurt Locker is also the second best film of 2009 — and perhaps among the top ten of the decade. This movie deserves every scrap of hype it’s gotten. It’s probably the leading contender in the race for Best Picture and I’d say that position is justified. You can find more of my thoughts about this powerful entry in the cinema of war here.

1. The Brothers Bloom
I don’t say this about very many films, but this was almost a perfect film. Going back to watch it the second time was absolutely essential — not to fully understand the film (it manages to maintain clarity despite the startlingly complex plot), but to appreciate how unceasingly brilliant the script was. Every tiny element of the story turns out to matter so very much and I was in tears by the end of the second viewing. This is one of those few movies that I will watch over and over and over. It is astonishingly brilliant, but in a way that is understated enough to miss the first time through.

Just for fun, I put together a few other lists in the process of compiling the “Best Of” list. First off, here are the runner-ups — all of which were fantastic, and most of which would have ended up vying for the number 11 slot if it existed:


And then I decided to make a list of the most unremarkable films of 2009. The so-so films that probably don’t belong on any kind of “Best Of” list, but are good enough to recommend for a movie night if you’ve already burned through the best:


And here (I know you’ve been waiting for it) is the backwash cinema of 2009. These films were so bad that they become worth mentioning on that merit alone (in order from bad to worst):


Don’t see those films. Save yourself. If you really want to waste your time, well, I’m pretty sure that’s why they invented YouTube.

Being only one person, of limited time and funding, I was not able to see all of the films I wanted to see from 2009. This is obvious to the point of being annoying, but I want it to be clear that I am fully aware there are films I haven’t mentioned that probably deserve a top spot (District 9 comes immediately to mind). So don’t be mad if you don’t see your favorite film of last year in this post. It’s likely I haven’t seen it, or at least possible — there’s always the chance I just think you just have poor taste.

And with that, I’ll end. Like I said, it was a good year. Wonderfully, it looks like 2010 might be just as good or even better. Let’s all go to the movies and find out.

Jordan Petersen is a film correspondent for Rhombus.

MUSIC: Year in Review: Top 20 Albums of 2009

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Joshua James

Every publication under the sun that covers music in some way, shape or form has an annual “Best Of” list around this time of year. I read them all. This either means a) I have way too much time on my hands, or b) I care way too much about arbitrary rankings published by people I will never meet. In reality, it’s probably a little of both.

Regardless of which problem(s) I may or may not have, I do know that I enjoy creating lists, particularly concerning things I like. After all, I thought to myself sometime in October, how hard can it be to come up with the year’s 20 best albums based solely on a criteria I make up in my head? Turns out it’s harder than it seems.

I spent months agonizing over every little detail of this list, hoping to make a perfectly ordered piece of authoritative perfection with which no one could quibble. Then, sometime around early December and after much personal consternation, I realized all that effort was in vain. Art is unquantifiable and completely subjective. As much as I believe that everything I feel about these artists is perfectly sane, logical and correct, you will inevitably still think I’m an idiot. This is unavoidable. So, in that spirit and after much procrastination, I decided to suck it up and throw something together.

And thus was born the following list: the best albums of 2009, according to me and some unspecified criteria that only makes sense in my brain. All of you will disagree, and I suppose that’s fine. Feel free to leave your thoughts (positive, negative, apoplectic) in the comment space below. Maybe even make a mini-list of your own if you’re feeling super-ambitious — but, like I said, it’s harder than it looks.

THE BEST:

Joshua James1. Joshua James, Build Me This
This isn’t a hometown pick. Yes, Mr. James calls Provo home and is undoubtedly the local scene’s most nationally visible artist, but those things don’t matter in comparison to the ungodly talent he unleashes on his second record. Build Me This features James doing folk-rock at its absolute best — with a little harder edge than on his 2007 debut, but with the same heartfelt sincerity. One listen to album opener “Coal War” instantly reveals James as one of America’s great young songwriters and a musical talent worthy of serious accolades. Build Me This may be a risky or unorthodox pick for album of the year, but I’m confident it’s the right one. This is a truly brilliant record by a prodigiously gifted artist.

Listen to: Joshua James, “Coal War”

Phoenix2. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
French rockers Phoenix finally broke out of obscurity with this artfully crafted disc of catchy dance-rock jams. From the opening keyboard plunks and scruffy guitar work of the infectious “Lisztomania” on through the electronica-tinged finale of “Armistice,” Phoenix holds the listener in the palm of their collective hand. Some have been critical of the band’s creative decisions in the months following the album’s release (i.e., lending their masterful hit “1901″ to a Cadillac commercial), but you can’t deny that Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix just makes you want to shake your moneymaker and maybe indulge in a few snails.

Listen to: Phoenix, “1901″

Animal Collective3. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
Brooklyn freak-folkers Animal Collective have been one of indie-rock’s most consistently excellent bands over the last decade. With each successive album, the trio’s music has become more polished and their melodies noticeably more addictive. The process culminated in this year’s excellent Merriweather Post Pavilion, easily the group’s best and most accessible album to date. Combining bits and pieces from a variety of genres, Merriweather is what the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds would have sounded like if Brian Wilson owned a synthesizer and a drum machine.

Listen to: Animal Collective, “My Girls”

Passion Pit, Manners4. Passion Pit, Manners
Few people had a better 2009 than Passion Pit mastermind and lead vocalist Michael Angelakos, who parlayed a four-song EP he made for his (now ex-)girlfriend into international indie stardom. How is this possible, you ask? (Well, besides the Internet and our culture’s ravenous obsession with “The Next Big Thing?”) It’s simple — Angelakos and crew make insanely enjoyable, surprisingly literate dance-pop. Listening to Manners is like repeatedly injecting pure saccharine into your bloodstream for 45 minutes — and addiction never tasted so sweet.

Listen to: Passion Pit, “Little Secrets”

Avett Brothers, I and Love and You5. The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You
The Avett Brothers have been making their (oddly traditional) folk ruckus for quite some time now, generally in small clubs and dark corners – wherever their ardent fan base can congregate. So it was interesting when the Avetts, renowned for their energetic live performances, teamed up with super-producer Rick Rubin to churn out a collection of slickly produced piano ballads with that Rubin-esque studio sheen. But my goodness, they certainly are beautiful. If the album-opening, lonely road ballad “I and Love and You” doesn’t melt your heart on first listen, you may not have a soul.

Listen to: The Avett Brothers, “I and Love and You”

Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest6. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
Grizzly Bear garnered a lot of attention earlier in the year following the May release of their second full-length album. Named after a small Massachusetts island and boasting sublime chamber-pop arrangements, Veckatimest brought a more mature, refined set of sensibilities to the indie genre. The staccato piano, rolling drums and four-part harmonies of the album’s lead single “Two Weeks” form a near-perfect pop gem with an intoxicating catchiness. After all, it hasn’t spent three months as my personal ringtone for nothing.

Listen to: Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks”

Matt and Kim, Grand7. Matt and Kim, Grand
This Brooklyn duo may have made the most consistently underrated album of the year — and that’s a damn shame. The indie community is often skeptical of artists that wear their melodies and hooks on their sleeve — but when did catchy, original pop tunes become a crime against music? Matt and Kim make unique, minimalist dance jams with just a drum set and their Casio keyboard. The beats are as distinctive and different as their shout-along choruses are infectious. If you want to rock out and have a good time with some expertly crafted pop music, Matt and Kim are definitely for you.

Listen to: Matt and Kim, “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare”

Girls, Album8. Girls, Album
There’s nothing better than a good backstory, and Girls frontman Christopher Owens, who was raised as a member of the Children of God cult, sure has one of those. In essence, Girls’ debut album takes Owens’ whirlwind of conflicted childhood emotions and wraps it all up in a bright Beach Boys package. The group’s bouncy, wonderfully efficient pop-rock songs are bright and energetic, even if the lyrical emotions languishing beneath that veneer are often agonizing. While his rough voice and occasional coarse language may not be for everyone, Owens’ Album marks one of the year’s most promising debut efforts.

Listen to: Girls, “Lust for Life”

Jay-Z, The Blueprint 39. Jay-Z, The Blueprint 3
Though many critics felt The Blueprint 3 came up short of being the rapper’s best work, it bears mentioning that even a fairly solid Jay-Z record would be a phenomenal accomplishment for anyone not born Sean Carter. That being said, the third installation in the Blueprint series is more than solid. The hits are there (“Run This Town,” “Empire State of Mind”), star-studded guest appearances dot the tracklist, and Jay’s flow is tight as ever. Despite being safely ensconced in his 40s with nothing left to prove, the greatest rapper alive still shows no signs of slowing down.

Listen to: Jay-Z (feat. Alicia Keys), “Empire State Of Mind”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz!10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz!
Apart from having one of the most creative album covers in quite a few years, It’s Blitz! represents a massive musical shift for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, trading Nick Zinner’s trademark muscular electric guitar work for pulsing synthesizers. The result is a highly stylized dance record that could get any party started. Vocalist Karen O. has never sounded better as she howls her way through the album’s taut 41 minutes and 10 tracks — and when she admonishes you to “get your leather on” in lead single “Zero,” it sounds so good that it’s near-impossible to say no. Here’s to hoping the Yeahs’ next musical evolution is even half as successful as this one.

Listen to: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Zero”

THE REST:

#11-20

11. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Most non-rock and roll band ever makes great fuzz-pop for a new generation, dedicates album to their ailing grandparents. (Sarcasm.)

Listen to: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, “Come Saturday”

12. The Low Anthem, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Alternating between gorgeous harmony-laced ballads and brash foot-stompers, The Low Anthem cover the full folk spectrum. It’s a shame so few people have heard this album.

Listen to: The Low Anthem, “Charlie Darwin”

13. Mosters of Folk, Monsters of Folk
Indie-folk supergroup turns in a surprisingly cohesive set of songs, marked by Conor Oberst’s trademark nasal drawl and Jim James’ always heavenly croon.

Listen to: Monsters of Folk, “Say Please”

14. Dead Man’s Bones, Dead Man’s Bones
Notebook heartthrob and former Mousketeer Ryan Gosling gets all dark and makes a Halloween-esque album featuring schoolchildren singing about their bodies becoming zombies. Highly advanced career move.

Listen to: Dead Man’s Bones, “My Body’s A Zombie For You”

15. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
Yale-educated avant-poppers craft oft-kilter masterpiece, complete with more tempo changes than any regular human being can begin to comprehend.

Listen to: Dirty Projectors, “Cannibal Resource”

16. Volcano Choir, Unmap
Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon gets together with friends and goes experimental. If you liked all the sonically ambient characteristics of last year’s For Emma, Forever Ago and can do without any type of functional song structure, Volcano Choir is for you.

Listen to: Volcano Choir, “Island, IS”

17. Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of Day
Kanye West’s protege had a much better 2009 than his mentor — released great space-hop album, won loads of critical praise, didn’t interrupt Taylor Swift at an awards show and provoke global backlash. Success.

Listen to: Kid Cudi (feat. MGMT and Ratatat), “Pusuit of Happiness”

18. Manchester Orchestra, Mean Everything to Nothing
Emo for people who think emo is for whiny wimps. Andy Hull shares his continual crises of faith via face-melting rock and roll in a way that makes literalism and confessional songwriting cool again.

Listen to: Manchester Orchestra, “The Only One”

19. Wilco, Wilco (the Album)
Jeff Tweedy and company may be well into their 40s with multiple kids, but they still know how to make a great rock record. Sure, Wilco (the Album) is no Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but what is?

Listen to: Wilco, “Wilco (The Song)”

20. Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms
The 2010 version of Passion Pit had the good manners (pun definitely intended) to give us a little sneak peek before year’s end. Look for Alan Paloma’s ’80s-derived dance-pop to be the stuff playing at the Alpine Village dance parties you stumble onto where everyone is trying way too hard to be hip. It’s a guarantee.

Listen to: Neon Indian, “Deadbeat Summer”

Steve Pierce is co-founder and editor of Rhombus. His wife is disappointed Taylor Swift’s Fearless didn’t crack the Top 20.