Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
It took the threat of doing hard time to get Eric Pollard to prioritize writing songs, and it turns out he's damn great at it. In an impassioned couple of months leading up to a court date (he got busted for selling pot), Pollard banged out 70 compositions — which is about as many as Leonard Cohen writes in a decade. Six of these make up 2012's Lightning & the Wolf, an EP produced by his pal (and Retribution Gospel Choir bandmate) Alan Sparhawk. You can choose any track, really, but "Hydrant Eyes" is supremely poetic. Midway through he sings, "Your pretty painted face/Overhang dripping on your hydrant eyes/You're killing me with sway/Relay rapping on a Maggie May." He then packages these couplets and others like them into arrangements that recall Neil Young's sonic grit and Elton John's soaring glitz. Don't be surprised if experiencing Actual Wolf gets your own eyes a little misty.
When we begin preparing our dinner, tuning in to all that is good, bad, and ugly in local news as the long workday slowly melts away, who wants to feel as though they're being assaulted by the newscaster? Some local anchors kill us with kindness — a sparkling smile that screams, "Like me! My hair is so pretty!" Others are too serious, making bad news — from school shootings to gas prices — seem even graver. This is why we love Amelia Santaniello, WCCO's longtime weekday anchor on the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts. Her reporting style is as even-keeled as they come. She's a professional, no-nonsense, yet comforting voice coming from the TV screen. She doesn't make us want to burn our meatloaf, scream at our kids, and crack open a second bottle of wine, and our families appreciate her for it. Now if only she could do something about the grating car salesmen screaming at us during the commercials.
In Minnesota, keeping up with the next day's weather can be a matter of life and death — or at least of comfort and misery. Even so, determining the best TV weatherperson isn't really about who is the best meteorologist or the most accurate forecaster. TV weathercasters don't launch their own satellites and weather balloons — they get their information from the same weather services. And while analyzing all that data may be complex, the five-day forecast will be pretty much the same on every channel. So choosing a weatherperson really means picking the TV personality you'd prefer to get your information from — the one you'd most like to invite into your living room every night. We invite Belinda Jensen, the weeknight forecaster at KARE 11. For 20 years Jensen has been bringing Minnesotans their weather, in a style so graceful and warm that even oncoming blizzards seem easier to take. She is a flawless presenter, impeccably self-possessed, and detailed without being weather-geeky. In her other duties on the station's KARE Saturday morning show and Grow with KARE gardening program, she proves herself to be an effortless conversationalist and a gracious host. Not only do we want to invite her into our living room, we'd like to invite her to our next dinner party.
For more than 30 years, Mark Rosen has had the best seat in the house, and we've all been better off for it. The longtime WCCO sports anchor started while still a fresh-faced student at St. Louis Park High School, and as the years have gone by he has aged gracefully into one of the most respected elder statesmen in the Twin Cities news media. But Rosie is about more than the smiling and eloquent presence you see during the sports segment on WCCO — he also breaks news, such as his infamous "framework of a deal" report about Joe Mauer's contract extension with the Twins and, more recently, his scoop that the University of Minnesota was seriously interested in making Rich Patino the next men's basketball coach. That said, there's still nobody better when it comes to breaking down the local sports news into digestible bits. Rosie is a Twin Cities treasure, and we're lucky he's always liked it here too much to leave.
Everyone loves City Pages alum and current Mpls/St. Paul magazine senior editor (and most recently, WCCO Radio weekend show host) Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. Even when she's skewering a new restaurant or food trend with her no-nonsense and accessible writing style, her assessments always come across as fair, accurate, and honest, never biased or mean-spirited. Food writing can be a difficult skill to master, as it one moment requires the writer to vivify the mundane and the next to clarify the utterly unclassifiable. But when it comes to Moskowitz Grumdahl's writing, we just can't get enough of her impeccable sense of humor, her sparkling wit, and her general right-on-edness. Oh, and we dig all of her wigs, too.
Being the creatures of habit that we are, it's easy to forget that, hey, there's actually more than one radio station for us to listen to around these parts. And in part, that's why we've been reacquainting ourselves lately with an old favorite — yep, Radio K. Actually, "old favorite" feels like a contradiction here: What's so great about the K is that, as a college radio station, it's constantly changing. There's always fresh talent, fresh perspectives, and fresh enthusiasm for spinning records and reaching out over the airwaves. Sure, sometimes that means things meander into the ambient ether a little too much, but there's also no strict programming here to stifle the DJs' imaginations. And it's not amateur hour, either; Radio K has been doing its own in-studio performances for decades now, and a flagship program like Off the Record combs through all the dingy basements and college lounges to find the local talent that doesn't always get noticed. Before you know it, you might even reprogram those preset stations.