Artists of the Year 2011

Alan Moore, Louis C.K., Bethany Larson, and more

He makes it look so real, with no pretense of fame or any outward act. When he says he expects to have only another year or two of this intense fame and go back to doing just standup till he dies, you almost believe it. "Stop tweeting and texting and live your lives," he said in his recent show Live at the Beacon Theater, which he sells as a download on his own website. C.K. reminds us of the wonder of technology and modern life: how a message on our phones goes into outer space, hits a satellite, and comes back to your friend's phone in two seconds, and we can't even be impressed or amazed anymore. He's just a guy being honest about getting older and trying to live a better life. He's the cranky dad whose rants you actually want to listen to. In a world in which comedy may be the least respected king of media, Louis C.K. deserves recognition for telling universal truths that inspire you to live your life.

Jeff Kamin moderates and produces Books & Bars (, an open book club show in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Chanhassen that combines literary discussions with liberal drinking. He's also a senior producer of performance programs at Minnesota Public Radio and trivia host of Name That Tune.

John Hawkes

By Ella Taylor

Gaunt and taut as a high wire, the terrific actor John Hawkes seems built for indie-pic villainy. Which may be why most moviegoers recognize him as the meth addict Teardrop in last year's Winter's Bone rather than, say, the appealingly eccentric love interest in Miranda July's 2005 Me and You and Everyone We Know, or as the pioneering Jewish merchant Sol Star on the HBO television series Deadwood.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Bethanie Hines
Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Lynda Barry
Lynda Barry

Hawkes's range is just as broad and deep within every character he plays. The actor does more with pent-up intensity than almost any other performer I can think of. Uncle Teardrop doesn't say much—mostly he glowers in threatening profile, a coiled cobra waiting to rear up and bite. Watch him carefully, though, and you see a lost cause rallying his inner prodigal to honor his flawed brother's memory by helping his niece (Jennifer Lawrence) save her family, and staying the course thereafter.

In Sean Durkin's bracing new indie Martha Marcy May Marlene, Hawkes calls on still more subtle variations—as well as his talent as a musician—to play a cult leader who bullies, cajoles, and seduces Elizabeth Olsen's runaway into a hapless wreck long after she seems to have broken free of his dominion. Patrick may be a marginal drifter with little purchase on the world outside his tiny rural dictatorship in upstate New York. Inside, he rules with a lethally mercurial blend of fatherly tenderness, sexual predation, and naked threat that commands absolute fealty from his vulnerable disciples—or else. Oozing insidious charisma, Hawkes's Patrick is every parent's worst nightmare, and all the more terrifying because the actor brilliantly plays him not as a cynical manipulator but something far more appalling—an absolute believer in his own depraved propaganda.

Ella Taylor is a Los Angeles-based critic for who also teaches in the School of Cinema at the University of Southern California. She is a frequent contributor to City Pages.

Bethany Larson

By Regan Smith

You know that moment in a really great song when the lead singer's voice absolutely rips through the space around it, reaching the exact right pitch at the exact right volume for exactly the right amount of time? That moment you listen to over and over again, that you will sit through five minutes of shitty distortion and mumbled lyrics for because it's just that damn satisfying?

Local songstress Bethany Larson takes that moment, makes it her bitch, then sends it home with a care package of flowers, honey, and maybe a complimentary loofah the next morning.

Hailing from Austin, Minnesota, 26-year-old Larson is the daughter of a Baptist minister who began singing with her church choir when she was five, picked up guitar at 15, and studied classical voice at Northwestern College in Roseville. Unlike many of her local female singer-songwriter counterparts, Larson's gospel-tinged vocals allow her to avoid the "yodel-y girl with a ukulele" pigeonhole, earning comparisons to Neko Case and Ella Fitzgerald. She has the type of voice that leaves you feeling boozy, charmed, and a little bit envious, wondering what the hell it would be like to open your mouth and have that come out.

When We Reach the City, Larson's first full-length release with new backing band the Bees Knees, is an alt-country heartbreak album infused with sophistication and a strangely bouncy sadness. It's 36 minutes of soulful southern twang that leave you wanting 40 more. But for all the album's merit, it's clear that When We Reach the City is just the beginning for this why-are-they-still-a-secret local band. Bethany Larson and her Bees Knees are not even close to their pinnacle, and it's that seductive promise of what's ahead that makes them just as deserving of recognition as everything they've accomplished thus far.

« Previous Page
Next Page »