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12 2016

Field Notes & Fixations: Favorites of 2016

By Thomas Hentges

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2016 will likely be remembered for it’s more tumultuous leanings.

However, to each yin there is almost always a yang. The disturbing tone and rhetoric of the 2016 electoral season was juxtaposed with the seeming miracle of a Chicago Cubs victory on that the greatest stage of America’s pastime. The relentless epidemic of mass shootings and police brutality continued to assimilate our culture as we received progressive news that Harriet Tubman’s portrait will replace that of Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill.  And while the music community suffered a great deal of loss, we also amassed an exciting new chapter in music from artists both new as well as faithful and familiar.

I recently took time to reflect on the music of 2016 and compiled a catalog of my favorite album offerings of the year. It’s always fun to look back at these lists I create each year, noticing often that a year or two can certainly find you with a different frame of reference. My personal leanings find myself usually in that of around a handful of genres, so you will begin to see some similitude and notice many genres absent, but I trust there is something for everyone to be enjoyed within this extensive list.

(Listen while you read, check out Thomas’s Spotify playlist.)

1.  Whitney – Light Upon the Lake (Secretly Canadian)

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The debut album from Chicago’s Whitney is a peculiar album in that its melancholy lyrics are dressed in sunshine drenched, indie-folk arrangements that made up what seemed the perfect album for the summer of ’16.  Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich’s first release since the breakup of their previous band, Smith Westerns, was recorded by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado at his home in California’s San Fernando Valley, with the band sleeping in tents in the back yard during the sessions. Lyrically, the album often feels like a pop take on Kerouac’s Beat Gen classic, On the Road, with tales of travel, adventure, excitement and regret. No other album received more spins from me this year, making it a seemingly obvious choice for my top spot.

2.  Night Moves – Pennied Days (Domino)

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Minneapolis’ Night Moves returned with limited expansion of their sound to their credit on this, their sophomore release for the Domino.  Guitarist and lead vocalist, John Pelant and bassist Mickey Alfano continue to fuse country, folk, psych and pop influences, producing a unique take on modern Americana.  This album also found itself in heavy rotation during the spring and summer months of 2016, and with good reason.  The infectious one-two punch of “Carl Sagan” and “Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry” served as the perfect soundtrack for nights spent sipping lemonade cocktails on the porch.

3.  Cass McCombs – Mangy Love (Anti-)

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I have no argument with The New York Times‘ proclamation that McCombs is “one of the great songwriters of his time”.  A cult singer/songwriter staple who’s peers include Will Oldham, Jason Molina and Bill Callahan, I anticipate any new release with his name amongst the credits.  Mangy Love plays out like a continuation of 2013’s Big Wheel and Others with a combination of political & world conscious narrative alongside McCombs’ often comical renderings and vivid character examinations.  McCombs appears again at #23 on my list for his participation with The Skiffle Players.

4.  Adam Torres – Pearls to Swine (Fat Possum)

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I stumbled on this artist by a freak accident this fall.  An inaccurate promo sticker comparison to Townes Van Zandt, an intersting album title, the solid rep of Fat Possum and a $15.99 (LP) price tag lead me to roll the dice on this my diamond amongst the rough pick of the year.  Assumedly like most, I was immediately struck by the intense vocal falsetto Torres displays on the album’s opener “Juniper Arms”.  The magic of this record is in the combination of the visual lyrical content, sparse instrumentation and in Torres unique vocal.  I found few things more satisfying this fall than brisk late afternoon walks with this absolutely gorgeous set of songs as the soundtrack via headphones.

5.  Sturgill Simpson – A Sailors Guide to Earth (Atlantic)

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On Simpson’s major label debut, he did anything but the easy thing, opting to stray from the formula which had earned him a reputation as the next big thing in neo-outlaw country.  The album’s addition of R&B and soul influences (the album has noticeable nods to Marvin Gaye both musically and in the lyrics’ emince sentiment in simplicity) to compliment the already present and perfected classic country sound is a bold departure for an artist that could have plyed it safe.  The self-produced album polarized his early fan base, but gained huge momentum all year long starting with charting #1 on Billboard’s Country Album Charts in it’s first week, a long and successful promotional tour including several TV performances and then the biggest shock of them all, the albums Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Having become a first time uncle shortly before this album’s release, it was fun to gift this album to my brother, as the record’s lyrical theme of Sturgill’s love and lessons for his first born son, seemed an appropriate gesture.

6.  Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis (New West)

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Much like Sturgill Simpson, Ellis is no stranger to presenting outside the box arrangements in country music, following his outstanding 2014 release The Lights From the Chemical Plant with decidedly more pop and 70’s singer/songwriter leanings to add to his already potent country/jazz fusion arsenal. Ellis’ strength lies in his abilities as both a songwriter and musician.  Imagine George Jones, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Ornette Coleman making music together and you get an idea of the ground covered by this highly underrated and experimental, yet very approachable artist.

7.  Vince Staples – Prima Donna (Def Jam)

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Vince Staples doesn’t miss a step on his follow-up EP, hot on the heels of the success of his 2015 breakthrough Summertime ’06In a genre currently laden with exaggerated bravado and copy-cat dribble, Staples dives deeper inward with this set of songs with a threaded theme focussing in on depression in the face of success. The beat on “Pimp Hand” is LEGIT and was my go to after-work jam this fall. Keep celebrating your favorite pop rap artist’s and their essential ghost-written singles and albums. I will stick with those pushing the envelope or nodding to a once strong tradition.

8.  The Cactus Blossoms Red House (You’re Dreaming)

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Released in January, You’re Dreaming, became the perfect soundtrack to moonlit drives throughout the late winter and early spring evenings. Twin Cities based brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum were able to achieve big results with the help of the production of Oklahoma vintage-king, JD McPherson. With McPherson at the helm, the already present Everly and Louvin Brothers-esque vocals are now being elevated with the addition of early rock n’ roll arrangements to compliment the 50’s honky-tonk model the duo initially built upon. Very happy for the success these two friends found this year!

9.  Dylan LeBlanc – Cautionary Tale (Thirty Tigers)

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This album caught my attention early on last year upon of the release of the single of the title-track, which is amongst my favorite songs of the year. Over the course of the seasons, the melodies and enchanting arrangements continued to bud and flourish in my few moments of silence. One would be hard pressed to pin-point the year of this album’s release if asked blindly upon a virgin listen, as there is something timeless both in production as well as LeBlanc’s use of song structures. Thirty Tigers continues to release some of the best in up-and-coming Americana.

10.  Aaron Lee Tasjan – Silver Tears (New West)

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A former member of a later incarnation of The New York Dolls, Aaron Lee Tasjan seems unlikely to assume the roll of burgeoning Nashville based Americana artist.  On Silver Tears, Tasjan genre hops seamlessly while staying centered throughout, calling to mind the likes of Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Gram Parsons, Father John Misty and Jason Lytle.  This one came heavily recommended late in the year via many of my favorite artists, and with good reason.

11.  Lydia Loveless – Real (Bloodshot Records)

12.  Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)

13.  Drive-By Truckers – American Band (ATO)

14.  Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (Third Man)

15.  A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)

16.  Kevin Morby – Singing Saw (Dead Oceans)

17.  Anderson Paak – Malibu (Steel Wool)

18.  Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered. (Aftermath)

19.  Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Dead Oceans)

20.  Daniel Romano – Mosey (New West)

21.  The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust (Thirty Tigers)

22.  The Skiffle Players – Skifflin‘ (Spiritual Pajamas)

23.  William Tyler – Modern Country (Merge)

24.  King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity (ATO)

25.  Hiss Golden Messenger Heart Like a Levee (Merge)

26.  Case/Lang/Veirs – Case/Lang/Veirs (Anti-)

27.  Andy Shauf – The Party (Anti-)

28.  Karl Blau – Introducing Karl Blau (Raven Marching Band)

29.  Charles Bradley – Changes (Daptone)

30.  Micheal Nau – Mowing (Suicide Squeeze)

31.  Luke Bell – Luke Bell (Bill Hill/Thirty Tigers)

32.  Schoolboy Q – Blank Face (Top Dawg)

33.  Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines (Matador)

34.  Bombino – Azel (Partisan)

35.  Woods – City Sun Eater In The River of LIght (Woodsist)

36.  WilcoSchmilco (Dbpm)

37.  Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love (Glassnote)

38.  Jack Klatt – Shadows In The Sunset (Different Folk)

39.  Ray Lamontagne – Ouroboros (RCA)

40.  Heron Oblivion – Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop)

41.  Paul Cauthen – My Gospel (Lightning Rod)

42.  Hayes Carll – Lovers and Leavers (HWY 87)

43.  Billy Don Burns A Night In Room 8 (Black Country Rock)

44.  Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd.)

45.  Amanda Shires – My Piece Of Land (BMG)

46.  Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels (Columbia)

47.  Natural Child – Okey Dokey (Natural Child)

48.  Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)

49.  Damien Jurado – Visions of Us on the Land (Secretly Canadian)

50.  The Lemon Twigs – Do Hollywood (4AD)

On a side note, I have enjoyed my inaugural six months of providing content here with Field Notes and Fixations and thank all of you who take the time to either read or participate. I look forward to continuing my coverage of South Dakota music and more in the new year. Cheers!

Related:

Field Notes and Fixations: Sioux Falls’ JAS Qunitet Set to Release Debut Album

Field Notes and Fixations: Support Your Local Music Scene

Field Notes and Fixations: Guilty Pleasure Music

Field Notes and Fixations: A Conversation with Sam Outlaw

Meet Music Writer Thomas Hentges

12 2016

605 Outdoor Wonders: Great Bear Recreation Park

By Anna Stritecky

Images: greatbearpark.com

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Sometimes you may think you know the extent for a certain destination, but then realize it can be turned into something very different. For most South Dakota residents, that is Great Bear Ski Valley, which is most popularly known for its winter activities, is next up on the summer list of places to see.

Great Bear during the summer is beautiful for exploration, because you get all of the beauty of the rolling hills and paths without the snow covering up all of the green underneath. Even though Great Bear doesn’t have any particular historical significance, it is still a gem in itself. Located between Sioux Falls and Brandon, this park can be used from an afternoon skiing to a morning hike.

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My experience with Great Bear consisted of exploration around the park. Nothing built onto the land, no man made stops, just what South Dakota has to offer. There are various hiking trails, all eventually running into another trail, so it is possible to walk around for hours. Theses trails are filled with tall grass, running streams and trees as far as you can see.

As I kept hiking around, Great Bear was one of the first parks that made me appreciate South Dakota for what is truly has to offer, seeing they have the land basically untouched in the back part of the valley. Other than the trails, Great Bear does have a lodge for skiing during the winter, and even wedding receptions and graduation open houses in the summer. Nonetheless, all year Great Bear has excess beauty that contributes to the most natural of South Dakota landscapes.

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Related: 

605 Outdoor Wonders: Pactola Lake

605 Outdoor Wonders: Palisades State Park

605 Outdoor Wonders: Spearfish Canyon

605 Outdoor Wonders: McKennan Park 

605 Outdoor Wonders: Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum 

Meet the Interns: Anna Stritecky

12 2016

Field Notes and Fixations: Sioux Falls’ JAS Quintet Set to Release Debut Album

By Thomas Hentges

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While not being recognized as a mecca for jazz music, and reasonably so, South Dakota has still found itself home to several jazz musicians and enthusiasts for several decades. For the past 25 years the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Society has played host to the lively, extremely popular, and well-attended event in JazzFest at Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls. Westward, Deadwood Jam will occasionally also include appearances by a jazz-leaning performers. However, a sustained interest in live jazz has seemingly never fully taken flight in our area.

An ensemble made up of familiar faces amongst the Sioux Falls jazz crowd, the JAS Quintet is steadfast on continuing to embellish the interest in jazz music in South Dakota and beyond. This group has spent the last couple years presenting enthusiastic audiences with three distinct programs, each highlighting a jazz heavyweight’s catalog of work (Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and most recently, Duke Ellington). After exploring the spirit and interplay of the group through performing the tunes of some of jazz’s forefathers, the quintet is stepping out on their own with a recorded collection of original tunes and arrangements, which make up their debut album, Leap Year Baby, set for an early 2017 release.

I recently had the opportunity to toss a few questions at JAS Quintet members Andrew Reinartz (bass), Joel Shotwell (sax) and Jim Speirs (trumpet) about the group’s dynamic, jazz in our community and their debut release.

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(submitted image)

TH: This ensemble of musicians has been playing together in different groups and incarnations for many years at this point. Why did you decide now was the time to record and release an album?

Andrew:  “While we’ve all played together in various bands, I think that this was the particular combination to express some of the ideas a lot of us had for some original music. When our drummer, Dan Heier, moved back to town, the five of us really clicked in an exciting way. And all of us actually lived in the same town, which made working through ideas together way more feasible.”

“We all trust each other musically, and are willing and able to put time in to flesh out ideas and take things in new directions. Improvised music can be really…for lack of a better term…vulnerable. You really put yourself out there every single time you take a solo, so you need people you trust to come with you, push back, whatever the moment needs.”

Jim:  “When something like this comes together, you know you have something to say as a band and you want to capture it for others to hear. There’s nothing that compares to a live experience as improvised music takes on dimension that is best felt when you share it in real time with the band, but we decided it was worth recording on an album.”

TH: What should we expect from this collection of songs?

Joel:  “For this collection of songs, you can expect variety. Seven of the nine songs are original and were written by our pianist Jeff Paul, bassist Andrew Reinartz and myself. We did one standard “Alone Together,” but in a different way than most people do it. We took the arrangement from a friend, Nate Jorgensen. We also did an arrangement that Andrew did of a Radiohead tune. The original tunes are all unique and different from each other. Our engineer Dalton Coffey took that approach while mixing it as well with each song being mixed according to its feel.” 

Andrew: “It’s an instrumental album from a jazz tradition, but really a wide variety of tunes. We go from straight-ahead minor blues tunes to funk, to a tune based on a Gregorian chant form. We played everything live, at the same time in the same room with no overdubs and only something like two edits on the whole album. We then ginned it up a bit with modern recording techniques and tastes, but it still sounds like an acoustic band making music together.”

TH: Over the years, has any member evolved as the “leader” or “director” of this project?

Andrew:  “I really think this band is truly a group effort. I think Joel really spearheaded the start of the project by bringing some of the first compositions to the table, but we really all have a say, both musically and operationally. We have a variety of musical interests or focuses, many outside of jazz, but all come from some portion of a tradition of improvised music rooted often in traditional jazz idioms. Each composer gets a bit of veto power when they bring a tune, but even then almost all the tunes have morphed significantly from their initial idea after the rest of the group has gotten hold of it.

Jim: “We work hard to keep this as a collective. What you hear when we play is the voice of the band, not any one person.”

TH: While jazz is appreciated globally, some might argue that our area is a bit of a dead zone for this truly American art form. What would be your rebuttal to such an accusation?

Jim:I think in many ways, live music in general has taken a hit lately. Folks seem less interested in that experience. Maybe because we’re surrounded 24/7 with music in some form and we have access to more music digitally now than ever before. I think that will change. People will miss the connection and communication that can only happen when you’re in the room with those performing. Jazz is still going through a transition from a ‘pop’ art form to fine art (this transition has been decades in the making). It’s weird to say ‘fine art’ in describing jazz, but what I mean is that it is no longer fueled by the popular music industry that is primarily focused on making money.”

Joel: “There is still great jazz music being made in this country, revolutionary jazz music even. As the world gets smaller so does the jazz world. As far as the art form goes, I think most musicians don’t see borders or think about things like that. We just communicate with whoever we can that shares the language and philosophy. “

Jim: “We have many talented jazz musicians in the region and I believe an audience base that will support their work. We just need to find the right venue that wants to be a home for the music. We had a great place, a real home, at Touch of Europe for nearly 20 years. That’s all we are missing right now.” 

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For more info on JAS Quintet, click here

Related:

Field Notes and Fixations: Support Your Local Music Scene

Field Notes and Fixations: Guilty Pleasure Music

Field Notes and Fixations: A Conversation with Sam Outlaw

Meet Music Writer Thomas Hentges

12 2016

Bookmarks and Big Screens: The 5th Wave

By Ellie Trebilcock

Is the book or the movie better?

It’s the most controversial topic between bookworms and movie-buffs. To resolve the long battle between these two passionate types of media consumers, I will compare and evaluate the quality of the book and movie versions of the story.

{***SPOILER ALERT***}

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This month: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

When an alien ship appears in the sky in The 5th Wave, the world doesn’t know how to respond. The aliens or the “others” attack the earth in four waves which threaten to decimate the human race. The 5th Wave follows Cassie, Sam, Evan, and Ben who all survived the initial waves and must fight to live through the next attacks.

For me, The 5th Wave was like a giant puzzle. I started out with all the separate puzzle pieces and slowly, painstakingly fit them together. However, when I finally neared the  end of the puzzle, there was still multiple pieces missing.

To elaborate, the book can be a bit difficult to understand. Especially in the beginning when the storyline does not start off in a linear timeline. It takes a long time for the audience to learn many of the important details leading up to the alien apocalypse. I wish the author would have clearly stated the backstory instead of jumping around with the timeline.

The book also unexpectedly changes the point of view of the characters. After finishing one part of the book, I was expecting to stick with the same narrator. Instead, I found myself inside another character’s head. To add to my confusion, some of the characters’ identity are not immediately revealed when they are first introduced. Is it too much to ask for each character’s name to be stated before beginning their inner monologue?

After being left in the dark for much of the book, the reader is still left with more questions than answers by the end.

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Hoping for additional insight, I sat down to watch the movie version of The 5th Wave. Here are some of my thoughts:

 

  • Quick and linear backstory

 

With all of my complaints about the book jumping around in the beginning with its timeline, the movie resolves that issue. At the beginning of the movie, there is a flashback which quickly brings the audience up to the speed on the background of the invasion. That wasn’t so hard was it, Rick Yancey?

 

  • Evan the savior?

 

To all of the people who have only watched the movie, Evan did not save Cassie from being killed by an “other.” In the book, Evan IS the “other” who shot Cassie in the leg. This is an essential plot point which was changed in the movie. Without it, the movie viewer can’t see his character growth later in the story.

 

  • Cassie has no information about the fort?

 

Is the audience supposed to believe that Cassie can infiltrate a highly secured fort without any help? In the novel, Cassie gets inside information about the fort from Evan. It seems a bit of a stretch that she would just happen to know the best way to gain access to the fort without any background information.

Final Rating:

Book- 3 ½ stars

Movie- 4 stars

The movie buffs are the clear winners this time around. The plot of movie version of The 5th Wave was straightforward and easy to follow. While I understand the author’s intention was to make the plot mysterious in order draw in the reader, it just made the plot more confusing than it had to be.

(joblo.com/movie-news/review-the-5th-wave-526)

(joblo.com/movie-news/review-the-5th-wave-526)

Related:

Meet the Interns: Ellie Trebilcock

Bookmarks and Big Screens: Me Before You

Bookmarks and Big Screens: Dances with Wolves

Bookmarks and Big Screens: The Giver

Bookmarks and Big Screens: The Da Vinci Code

12 2016

Locally Grown: Cassia McLoon

Interviews with South Dakotans finding success outside their college major by Kyle Hallberg.

Images submitted

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Pinpointing the thing that makes you who you are is not always easy, unless you’re Cassia McLoone. Between graduating from Lincoln High School and enrolling at the University of South Dakota, McLoone found herself discovering who she was through the photos she took. While most of her classmates were headed to college, McLoone knew her pictures needed her, as much as she needed them – for anxiety equally fought for her attention, pulling her between the world she saw through the lens and the world around her.

McLoone, her adorable pup, and I sat down and discussed the power of photography, anxiety, and the influence of the scholastic world.

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Kyle Hallberg: First of all, I saw your photos for sale at Keller’s and I was beyond impressed. So, tell me, how did you get into photography?

Cassia McLoone: It’s hard to pinpoint when I got into photography, we’ve always had pictures around and my grandfather was also a photographer – which probably inspired me to pick up a camera. I remember going into his dark room with him and watching his pictures develop.

KH: Did you take pictures in high school?

CM: Yeah, I hung out with a lot of skateboarders and I would take photos of them with my iPhone, which led to getting my camera and then I discovered I liked to take pictures of other things. Right around that time I took photo class in school, which helped me build my portfolio.

KH: After high school did you start college right away?

CM: I didn’t. I decided to take a year off and focus on myself. Which meant working at RedRossa and taking photos. I just needed to do what I wanted to do.

KH: Was that a hard decision for you to make?

CM: I didn’t know what I wanted to do in school, but I knew I wanted to take photos, so that’s what I did. I knew I could support myself and I knew I would go back to school when I figured it out. I like learning and challenging myself, so I knew the break would not last forever. The break I took gave me the opportunity to excel in photography and to further myself as a student.

KH: That’s a really great way to look at it. I think some people forget that who they are is just as important as the degree they have.

CM: Exactly. This fall I will be finishing my generals at USD, which I started at the University Center in Sioux Falls. I’m thinking about being an art major, but I’m not too sure yet.

KH: That’s awesome. I spent a lot of time in the Arts Building at USD and they are a dedicated group of people, especially when they are really into the projects they are doing. What are you really into, as far as what type of photography really appeals to you?

CM: There are a couple of things I like to do. I like to set up shoots that reflect the images in my head. I have an ongoing series of people with half of their faces covered with moss, that has to do with being one with nature. I am also always adding on to a series that expressed what it feels like to have anxiety. Usually, that incorporated me strangling somebody. The first one I ever did was in high school and it involved me, a plastic bag – tying it around my neck and take this photo to represent the emotion I was feeling.

KH: I always find it super interesting to hear about the different ways people handle their anxiety. I know that for me, school and class has always been accompanied with extreme anxiety and worry. Did you ever experience anxiety in school?

CM: Oh yeah. During my junior year, I was in a few accelerated classes. There were so many things going on during my life, and in addition to those classes, all of my anxiety was enhanced and I would find myself leaving class because I was sick with anxiety. That spiraled into my teachers telling me I was lazy or I should give up, which was the worst. But, I made it through and then I was able to focus on my photography, which allowed me to further understand my anxiety.

KH: So after you take your photos, do they reveal more about yourself?

CM: Definitely. I will see it in candids and while I’m out and about. I will take a picture and look at it later and say to myself, ‘That feeling? That’s what it looks like. Right there.’ I think taking a year off was a big step in the healing process of dealing with my anxiety. Photography gave me the opportunity to figure that out. So while I love learning and school, I needed to figure out myself as a person in order to figure out myself as a student.

KH: Well now that you have that figured out and school will be starting, are you worried at all about losing out on photo experiences?

CM: Photography has become part of who I am, so I know it will never leave me or my life.

McLoone’s photos can be found around Sioux Falls, as well as on her Facebook page. 

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Related:

Meet the Interns: Ben Gertner

Meet the Interns: Kyle Hallberg

Locally Grown: Mato Jacob Standing Soldier

Locally Grown: Tevyn Waddell

Locally Grown: Kyle West

Locally Grown: Addison Avery

 

12 2016

THE (MUSIC) YEARBOOK: 2001

By Sean Calhoun

One genre that hit its commercial peak during the first decade of the new millennium was pop-punk. While bands like Yellowcard and Sum 41 (and later Fall Out Boy and similar acts) found a great deal of success, there was one band in particular that typified the genre in the early 2000s…

Take Off Your Pants And Jacket – Blink-182 (Interscope Records)

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It wouldn’t be an early Blink-182 album without some sort of crass title, would it? (See also: Enema Of The State, their previous record.) It’s true that Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker formed one of the crudest groups to come out of the genre, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t rock.

Take Off Your Pants And Jacket continued the highly successful formula set by Enema Of The State: crisp, guitar-driven instrumentals, jokey (but rather intense) vocals, and a general sense that all involved were having a pretty good time. The end result is a lot like musical junk food – it’s not particularly substantial, but it’s certainly enjoyable in the moment.

The album’s third track, “First Date”, is also its first single and one of its highlights, with DeLonge rhapsodizing on the subjects of relationships, teenage angst, and general adolescent awkwardness. Another highlight, “Story Of A Lonely Guy”, sounds like a far less depressing parallel of Enema’s “Adam’s Song,” musically if not necessarily lyrically.

Another single, “The Rock Show”, is shallow as all hell, telling the story of DeLonge meeting a girl at Warped Tour (remember when that was relevant?), and yet it still manages to be one of the album’s better tracks. Blink-182 has always seemed to be the type of band that is at its best when there’s at least some level of self-awareness as to how ridiculous the whole thing is, and “The Rock Show” is more proof.

There is one track, though, where the boys decide to get serious, and it’s the best track on the album: “Stay Together For The Kids”, where Hoppus and DeLonge tag-team to tell an angry and emotionally evocative tale of a fractured American family. Both vocalists are at their best here, imbuing the track with a level of maturity and musicality not seen particularly often in the group’s discography.

There’s a lot to like here – chanty choruses, sharp guitar work, and more than a dash of humor (delivered, of course, through DeLonge’s ever-present, vaguely whiny, nasally, but eternally distinctive tone). Of course, there are a couple of lyrically cringeworthy moments (mostly in relation to the envelope being pushed a biiiiiit too far in terms of overt crassness), but that’s par for the course when it comes to Blink-182. It’s a solid reminder that pop-punk doesn’t always have to be all that serious.

Score, Adjusted for 2016 Ratings Inflation: 8.1/10

 

While I’ve already covered a bit of nu-metal in this series, 2001 brought with it a number-one album that put a thrashier and more explicitly political spin on the genre…

Toxicity – System of a Down (Columbia)

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System of a Down is one of the more unique bands of the 2000s. Formed by four Armenian-American friends in California, the group has never really slotted easily into one genre, with elements of thrash metal, rap, and alternative rock, along with a decidedly political lyrical slant a la Rage Against The Machine.

This becomes obvious immediately on “Prison Song”, the album’s first track, an angry screed decrying the American prison system and its treatment of drug offenders. It sets the tone for the rest of the album – an album that kicks you in the face over and over again, demanding that you hear and understand the message it’s trying to send.

The subject matter under investigation on Toxicity varies, but it’s almost always explicitly political. “Deer Dance” is about the protests surrounding the 2000 Democratic National Convention, while other tracks cover topics from group sex to Charles Manson. It’s aggressive and at times borders on off-putting, but it’s also very well put-together.

Lead vocalist Serj Tankian doesn’t spend a lot of time on Toxicity actually singing – much like a number of other nu metal vocalists, there’s a lot of yelling and aggressive speak-singing on this record. It serves the instrumentals and the lyrical content well, however, and when Tankian does segue into more melodic vocals, it adds extra emotional and persuasive heft to his words.

This vocal duality is used to great effect on perhaps the album’s most memorable track, the single “Chop Suey!”. While the track’s lyrics are rather inscrutable, Tankian claims it’s a song about drug addiction that, even so, is “a little quacky.” It’s a terrific track and highlights the range of the band, both musically and vocally, with Tankian doing more actual singing here than on any other track.

Like a lot of nu- and thrash-metal albums, however, Toxicity reaches a point where the repeated musical punches become a bit too much. The production also has a tendency to be a bit repetitive, with indistinguishable guitar work softening the edge of a lot of tracks.

In the end, however, it’s a pretty solid and thought-provoking album, and one that has held up a lot better than most of its contemporaries.

Score, Adjusted for 2016 Ratings Inflation: 6.6/10

 

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11 2016

605 Outdoor Wonders: Pactola Lake

By Anna Stritecky

(Image: pactolalake.com)

(Image: pactolalake.com)

Some of South Dakota’s most beautiful destinations are the most simple spots that the state has to offer. Next on our journey throughout South Dakota is Pactola Lake, right outside of Hill City. Although Pactola is just a lake sitting in the Black Hills, it has one of the most gorgeous landscapes that I have ever laid eyes on in the 605.

Pactola Lake is one of the most unique lakes in the region, due to the strange history behind it. This lake was once just known as a township, Pactola. This township was one of the oldest settlements in Pennington County. After the discovery of gold in the creek beds, prospectors and miners began to flood to Pactola, soon making it a populous, thriving community. Due to its isolation, there was little law enforcement and the valley became the hiding place for many who did not wish their whereabouts known. After the miners began to create their own laws instead of obeying those of the country, the town eventually imploded on it’s own terms. After all the residents being cleared out, the large valley was then flooded and eventually turned into a recreation area for locals and tourists alike. Some say that to this day there are still houses settled to the bottom of Pactola Lake.

(Image: pactolalake.com)

(Image: pactolalake.com)

As I visited the lake, I took in the view while laying on the beach area. Since it is a flooded valley, the lake sinks beneath a view of trees and shrubbery that steal the show. There are also beaches around the area that allow for visitors to enjoy whatever it may be. Pactola Lake also has separate entrances for boats that are free to go around the river. This lake is filled is equipped for kayaking, paddle boating, hiking, and much more for anybody who loves the outdoors to enjoy.

(Image: pactolalake.com)

(Image: pactolalake.com)

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11 2016

Dining In and Out: CRAVE American Kitchen and Sushi Bar

One young foodie explores the local restaurant scene, bringing quality cuisine into your kitchen, sans doggie bag.

By Kaylyn Deiter

(Image: facebook.com/CRAVESiouxFalls)

(Image: facebook.com/CRAVESiouxFalls)

Dining Out

If you crave an urban vibe, gorgeous outdoor views and great food to boot for your next dining experience, look no further than Minneapolis transplant, Crave American Kitchen and Sushi Bar.

Crave is a restaurant with style. Located on the ground floor of downtown’s Hilton Garden Inn, the eatery brings metropolitan-posh to the Midwest with an open seating plan, futuristic, streamlined decor and an outdoor patio so extensive it will put even your wildest patio dreams to shame. Trust me, it’s cool. And if there’s one word expansive enough to describe Crave, it’s probably just that: cool.

“We really want to create that relaxed energy here at Crave,” assistant general manager Ileen Sayler said. “It’s that energetic buzz of people enjoying themselves while also being able to sit down at the table and relax, knowing they’re going to be taken care of.”

Although the restaurant clearly prides itself on cultivating an uptown vibe, the experience would be less-than-ideal if the food wasn’t high-quality enough to match. Luckily for Crave, that’s a problem this eatery doesn’t have to worry about.

Crave touts an unexpectedly harmonious pairing of all-American cuisine and high-end sushi, hence the name. Sushi aficionados can watch their dish being prepared by a cadre of chefs, while those craving something a bit more familiar have the luxury of choosing anything from burgers and pasta to fish and fries. Even if you’re picky, Crave is sure to have something to satisfy, well, your latest craving.

“I like to call it sushi for the Midwest,” Sayler said. “Crave is a place where sushi newbies can go and still feel comfortable, sushi connoisseurs can come and enjoy a great meal and even grandma can tag along and choose something more familiar. We really can fit a multitude of palates here.”

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(facebook.com/CRAVESiouxFalls)

If you’re envisioning a place to dine out that feels like a Manhattan vacation, stop by Crave. Sitting outside or in, neither the food, the views nor the professional service will leave you wanting more. The restaurant is a welcome addition to the Sioux Falls dining scene, one that makes the city feel less like a large town and more like the Midwest cultural metropolis it’s soon becoming.

(facebook.com/CRAVESiouxFalls)

(facebook.com/CRAVESiouxFalls)

Three reasons to eat at Crave:

  1. The sushi bar
  2. Outdoor seating with views of the River Walk
  3. Extensive beverage menu

Dining In

Craving an evening at home instead of a night on the town? We’ve got you covered. Though Crave is known for their lauded sushi menu, sushi is a bit difficult to recreate at home (especially for a college student turned novice home cook like myself). So instead of dipping into the realm of luxury fish, we’re going to try a luxury drink instead.

Crave sports an extensive beverage menu (complete with wine tower in the center of the restaurant), so why not try bringing a little of that happy hour atmosphere home by trying this mojito recipe courtesy of Mary Mairose of Kimball. Homemade mojitos never tasted so good.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • Juice of 2 oranges plus 1 grated rind
  • Juice of 6 lemons plus 1 grated rind
  • 2 large handfuls mint with stems

Instructions:

  1. Boil water and sugar for 10 minutes
  2. Juice and grate rest of ingredients
  3. Pour sugar water mixture over remaining ingredients
  4. Mix
  5. Let stand for at least 1 minute
  6. Strain and pick out leaves
  7. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
  8. To serve fill glass ⅔ full with ice, pour in 5 to 6 Tbsp juice and fill with rum

Though a bit more labor intensive than simply buying mojito mix, this recipe is worth all the work it takes to juice that much fruit (trust me, your arms might be little sore). This concoction is fruity and refreshing without overpowering the bitterness of the rum. Try it with Ginger Ale instead for a non-alcoholic treat.

Three reasons to enjoy Crave at home:

  1. Skip the wait times
  2. Don’t break the bank
  3. Customize the drinks your way

Crave is the perfect culinary addition to a city just beginning to discover its cultural identity. With a five-star menu and chic uptown atmosphere, it’s the place to be on any given night of the week. Recreate one of the restaurant’s signature drinks at home for a homegrown twist on a classic. You’ll be craving those mojitos in no time.

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11 2016

Field Notes and Fixations: “Support Your Local Music Scene”

By Thomas Hentges

thomas-2-of-5

It’s a phrase that often permeates social media and other outlets, usually as a marketing ploy by a local artist or band, seemingly to guilt you into attending their next performance. And while at times it can be downright annoying to hear the phrase repeated over and over, as if it was some mantra that when reiterated may magically produce larger turnouts to local events, often it is a message falling on deaf ears,  particularly in our neck of the woods. South Dakotans have seemingly had a longstanding stigma that nothing good can come from our own backyard.

So why does this attitude seem to be the status quo in our region? What is it that prevents the population of our great state from going all-in and supporting an inspiring local act to the fullest? It is impossible to simply answer these questions. However, I have a few theories as to why this attitude continues to plague our region, as well as some thoughts on how to improve this overall contempt for anything local.

To piggyback on the notion that many Dakotans see little of value in their own state, often many of us see anyone achieving some inkling of success as behaving as though they are better than their peers (which in some cases can be real, but rarely is the case). The usual responsive act of “pulling someone down by their ankles” in whatever form it is delivered does nothing positive for either the victim or the perpetrator. More than anything, it just reveals that jealousy is usually the root cause of said attitude. And, as we all now, jealousy is not seen as a positive behavior and its conduct rarely yields anything more than perpetual frustration.

Another problem I have witnessed is the blame for lackluster show turnouts being placed on the wrong group of people. When I first moved to Sioux Falls more than sixteen years ago, I was both excited and thankful for the 2-3 all-ages shows a month I was able to attend. In those days, a show could consist of several acts representing several genres and work out seamlessly. At the time this was seen as a strength of our local music community, particularly by outsiders.  

Things have certainly changed, especially within the last five years, to the point of “our scene” actually finally becoming several smaller and more specific scenes. You have your metal scene, punk scene, folk scene, hip-hop scene, etc. This is a much more municipal look at how most music communities divide themselves, and for obvious reasons. In my opinion, this has been a fantastic development, as it shows growth. However, I often hear musicians complaining that a group of people involved in another music scene isn’t showing up or supporting their scene. Here inlays one of our biggest issues.

A scene cannot exist if the only support via show attendance is coming from other area musicians. There are nearly 200,000 people who now call the Sioux Falls area home, for example. In knowing that bit of information, it can be frustrating to put lots of work into promoting a performance, only to have it attended by 20 people, often with maybe only a handful of attendees who seem to give a damn. We MUST at some point get the support of the non-performers in our community, but as mentioned earlier, in attempting to do so we often run into the attitude that nothing local can be of a high quality. Between several free outdoor concerts in the summer, the success of the White Wall Sessions, local record labels popping up and the strength of all-ages events at Total Drag, local musicians have more opportunities at quality exposure than in recent memory.

So what can we/you do? How can we continue the positive pattern of growth we have seen in recent years in our music community? I have broken this down into two categories, performers and the public.

Performers

  • Promotion is your responsibility. As embarrassing as it can sometimes be, if you don’t promote yourself, who will? Create and distribute appealing fliers, have a strong presence via social media, and reach out to local publications and events listings. A common complaint among concert attendees is that they often are not aware of your events.  
  • Take the time to present yourself in as professional a manner as you feel represents you. Do not sell yourself short with a half-ass performance and production. Be sure also to thank those in attendance as well as the venue and staff. A little bit goes a long way.
  • It’s very hard to have any ‘mystique’ when playing your hometown. That said, be nice. Take time before and after the gigs to connect with your audience. Coming off as unapproachable in your own hometown doesn’t give you mystique, it paints you as a grade-A asshole.
  • Spread out your gigs. I often see local acts seemingly playing in the area every two weeks. Unless you are presenting a completely different experience for each of these shows, this is just plain overkill and will leave your audience feeling that they can “always catch you the next time.”

Public:

  • Do a little research and attend a performance. This one seems so obvious it almost goes without mentioning, but it is a very simple truth.  
  • If you discover an artist you enjoy, spread the word. Bring a friend or two next time you go out and see the act you enjoyed before. Talk to your acquaintances. Spread the act’s material via your social media accounts.
  • Purchase local music. Bands spend countless hours writing, fine-tuning and recording their material. By simply purchasing music from these groups you are giving a validity to what they are doing.
  • Believe in your community. Finally, once and for all, let’s attempt to end the stigma that nothing good can come from our area. It’s simply untrue, and such a negative perception of one’s surroundings does no good for anyone, yourself included.

thomas-1-of-5

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11 2016

605 Outdoor Wonders: The Outdoor Campus

By Anna Stritecky

Images courtesty of The Outdoor Campus

outdoorcampus

The Outdoor Campus is an establishment in itself when comparing the location to other South Dakota gems. Even though The Outdoor Campus is beautiful, they also have a tremendous educational aspect to their land. This location provides dozens of services that let residents and tourist both immerse themselves in the outdoors.

The Outdoor Campus is a joint project of the South Dakota Department of Game Fish and Parks and the City of Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department. The experiences with the natural landscape of South Dakota mixed with the South Dakota Outdoor Museum that includes a 3,000 gallon aquarium along with two miles of walking trails, geocaching and hands-on “try-it” events and classes makes for a phenomenal location in Sioux Falls and Rapid City both. Despite the beautiful outdoors, everyone can learn a little something outside of nature.

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Dylan Seaman, 8, kayaks during South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks 5th annual Outdoor University Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, at the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls. The goal of the event is to give people a chance to try different kinds of outdoor activities in one day, said Outdoor Campus director Thea Miller Ryan. Ryan said that last year's Outdoor University had just under 3,000 participants. "We're expecting 3,000," Ryan said about this year's attendance. "I think it might end up being more," Ryan said.

In the past, I have had the chance to actually attend a couple different outdoor classes, especially when I was younger. These classes come with vivid memory, proving how unique they are to Sioux Falls and how much they are teaching children. The Outdoor Campus offers classes such as archery, canoeing, and DIY bird feeders, along much more. This time around, my experience with the outdoor campus was a bit more low key, enjoying the grounds versus the education.

After walking around the trails and pond, we took some kayaks along the stream and basked in the greenery. To my surprise, the experience made me feel like I was on the outside of the city, even though I was in the middle of it. The trails were not crowded, the land was kept very clean and it made you feel surrounded with the outdoors. The outdoor campus is not only another piece of land in the middle of the city, but instead one that everybody can find something to enjoy.

take-a-hike-484-jpg

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