Artists Of The Year

Critics sniffed at Spooky's manifestos and his "self-promotion"--which may be partly because the artist (aka: Paul Miller, an established music writer himself) had grabbed the critical reins out of their hands. But for all his jargon, I was heartened to encounter someone who could articulate/imagine the seismic musical shift that DJ culture is heralding (Odelay-hee-hoo, Boo), not to mention his touching grooves-can-save-the-world idealism. His music also had me hearing records in new ways: rhythms and riffs, solo lines of voice or instrument, suddenly became unmoored from songs, suggesting new contexts, new mixes; listening became less passive; background noises took on new allure. It's hardly pop, but Spooky's music made two turntables (and no microphone) sound like the future of a million and one garage bands. I can hardly wait.

Will Hermes is senior arts and music editor at City Pages.

SUSANA DI PALMA

by Caroline Palmer

The frozen tundra of Minnesota may not seem like the ideal place to develop a fiery flamenco soul but Susana di Palma, director of Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre, seems to generate heat wherever she goes. In 1996 alone, di Palma produced two seasons at the Southern Theater, premiering a pair of new works exemplifying a her fresh perspective on the 600-year-old flamenco tradition.

Last February di Palma unveiled "Sadja," a version of the Frida Kahlo story portraying the woman behind the cottage industry. A vision of anger and passion, di Palma's Frida channeled the indignities of her relationship with Diego Rivera into creative intensity. Wheelchair-bound, with only a cane and a pair of quicksilver feet to pound out the beat, di Palma seemingly lost herself evoking Frida's frustrated spirit. Indulgent? Of course--but how else to present the spirit of a modern-day icon alternately obsessed and possessed by love and art.

October brought us "Garden of Names," di Palma's stage adaptation of Lawrence Thornton's magic-realist novel Imagining Argentina. I have never witnessed a work that so powerfully induces a sense of quiet and reverence. Di Palma wisely intuited that flamenco, itself a product of the Spanish Inquisition, could prove a poignant medium for the story of Argentina's "disappeared" generation. And as a memorial to the millions worldwide who have died at the hands of atrocity, "Garden of Names" serves as a reminder that life, and the power of imagination, are sacred. Di Palma deserves many curtain calls for the sensitivity, bravery and complete artistic commitment she displayed this year. (Caroline Palmer)

Caroline Palmer is a Minneapolis writer and regular contributor to City Pages.

RADIO K

by Cecily Marcus

Radio K has become the perfect houseguest--at times inconspicuous and at other moments, shocking, hilarious, entertaining. At its quietest, the music is solid and smart, carrying the potential that at any time a song will come on that I didn't expect and couldn't have hoped for. At its liveliest, Radio K's thoughtful DJs, imaginative selections, and wide-open request line make an unstable world in which it is no longer possible to imagine yourself alone. Radio K plays us the songs you might have selfishly imagined no one else liked, features DJs with whom you can have the most pleasant conversations (just call them), and seeks out the music that according to other stations doesn't exist.

The morning I was trying to write about why I love Radio K, the DJ, Pam, asked for her listeners' favorite albums of the year. I called in with mine, Sleater-Kinney's Call the Doctor, an album I only hear on their station. She sounded pleased that someone called in at 7:30 a.m. She seemed excited about my choice. I got excited hearing her be excited. So when the group's "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" came on the radio one minute later realized how different music sounds when you know other people are listening, and I felt like thanking the woman playing the songs and the station that, like any good artist, changes what seems possible. When Radio K signs off the air at 4:30 on a winter's afternoon, I miss my houseguest.

Cecily Marcus is A-List editor at City Pages.

THE CAST OF 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN

by Phil Anderson

So these aliens come to Earth, a.k.a. the U.S.A., to study us. Familiar enough, since long before Mork. But what do they do while here? Apart from the usual sitcom stuff--learning the weird routines of voting, or football--they wear their emotional confusion like a second skin and make gender-bending a major satirical subtext. Consistently misreading social cues, unaware that male and female should stay within tight slots, Cmdr. Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) and his "family" stare in the face of convention and smile all the while. This is especially refreshing in an era of both extra-overt (Roseanne) and covert (Ellen) forays into the territories of alternative lifestyles, whether economic or sexual.

Cmdr. Dick is a hotheaded mix of macho blunder and back porch-biddy gossip; he amalgamates two stereotypes to mock both. Matching him in both bodily contortions (a stumbling sort of grace) and independent, innocent sexuality is his "sister" Sally (Kristen Johnson), a rangy six-footer who's decided 1978's miniskirts and ribbed lycra tops are the height of style. Their "brother" Harry (French Smith) researches pop culture (Houdini escapes, cartoon anvils) like it was ancient Urdu, while Dick's "son" Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) defies other TV teens by being stable and sensible. This is a ripe package of personas, fittingly completed by Jane Curtin as a real Earthling, who easily matches Lithgow in the physical desperation department. In fact, these two paragons of middle-ageism cover far more interesting ground--both serious and whimsical--than Tim (Home Improvement) Taylor and his neighbor Wilson could ever come up with.

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