Will Forte and Bruce Dern in NebraskaNEBRASKA

After opening nationally (in larger markets) in November, Alexander Payne's comic elegy Nebraska - nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Director - finally hit Quad Cities cineplexes this past weekend.

The Des Moines band Foxholes formed in late August 2012, and its first album is set to be released March 1. Can't Help Myself is a surprisingly mature work, in the sense that a band this new has a clear sonic identity - rooted in late-'80s/early-'90s alternative rock - yet it doesn't use its touchstones as crutches; the songs in no way suggest a group trying to find its feet over its first year-plus, or an ensemble beholden to its influences.

But the quartet - which will be performing its first show outside of the Des Moines and Ames areas at Rozz-Tox on February 1 - has indeed been a work in progress. And with a second full-length album planned for later this year, it's evident that Foxholes moves quickly.

The Weeks. Photo by Emily B. Hall.

The title of The Weeks' Dear Bo Jackson does more than name-check the famous two-sport professional athlete - an All-Pro running back in the NFL and an All-Star outfielder in Major League Baseball. It also articulates a mission statement for the Nashville-by-way-of-Mississippi band.

"Bo Jackson, as good as he was at baseball and football, he was just called a ballplayer," said guitarist Sam Williams earlier this week. "Bo Jackson just kind of does what he wants. That's sort of what we were going with, musically. ... I just want to be a rock band. ... I think this record has a lot of different genres. We kind of skip around a lot."

To extend the metaphor, Williams said "the bashing rock-and-roll songs" represent The Weeks' football career, while the slower songs are baseball. "They take a little longer to develop," he said, but they have their share of "triples and homes runs."

Of course, bands hate being pigeonholed, but The Weeks make good on their chutzpah. When the latest edition of the Communion tour hits the Quad Cities on January 23 (at RIBCO), the bill features a pair of throwback bands. Both The Weeks and The Dough Rollers play rock that neither needs nor warrants additional modifiers; it's music largely out of time.

In reviewing The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die's Whenever, If Ever, Pitchfork.com said it's "a rare debut that's powered by an almost frightening will to live, a desperation that strongly suggests the people involved have no other option to deal with what's inside of them."

That's a somewhat ironic assessment, given that the band almost didn't complete the album. "We weren't sure if everybody was going to break up or if we were going to finish the thing ... ," guitarist Greg Horbal said in a phone interview last week. "I think for a while, even I was kind of like, 'If we get this record done, it'll be a miracle.'"

I'm no vinyl purist, but for this year's selection of my favorite songs, I decided to limit myself to the length of an LP and sequence it for two sides. The primary benefit of brevity is that it can be more easily digested, as a side can be consumed in 25-ish minutes.

But this approach resulted in a "main" album of only 10 songs - which is admittedly meager for a year when I had 11 albums with at least three songs I loved.

To correct for that, I'm also offering a second album collecting 15 songs that are, generally speaking, more pop-oriented - which isn't to say they're not just as weird in their ways as the first 10 songs. That's also LP length, and also offered on two sides.

Finally, to highlight some additional favorites that didn't make those two slabs of vinyl, I'm giving you a CD-length collection of 20 more songs. You're welcome.

Practically speaking, there are two ways party leaders draw state-legislative districts in Illinois: domination and dumb luck.

A key phrase in that sentence is "party leaders," because regardless of whether redistricting is accomplished through one-party rule or a name literally being drawn from a hat, it's controlled by those with a vested interest in remaining in power - and it's controlled by one party. Functionally, Illinois' system is institutionalized gerrymandering.

"Republicans and Democrats want to draw the maps to protect incumbents and punish their political foes," said Michael Kolenc, campaign director for Yes for Independent Maps (IndependentMaps.org). "We've seen them do it in this state. We've seen them do it in other states. They do it at any level that they can. And right now they have the data and the technology where they can do it very, very well - where they can slice and dice neighborhoods" to craft maps that benefit them.

Kolenc's campaign aims to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would change the way Illinois draws its state-legislative maps. (The process of drawing districts for the U.S. House of Representatives would not be affected.)

Müscle Wörship. Photo by Jonathan Van Dine.

There's a perfectly practical reason the Kansas-based band Müscle Wörship uses umlauts in its name - to protect people who would rather not know about a particular sexual fetish. So a word of advice to those folks: Don't do an online search for the band without those umlauts!

But the combination of a somewhat-deviant punk-ish name and those metal dots (à la Motörhead) makes musical sense, too, as Müscle Wörship lives in the cracks between styles. There's the lean aggression of punk, the experimental complexity of post-punk, the general heaviness of metal, extensive use of the tremolo bar that sometimes recalls the signature guitar sounds of both My Bloody Valentine and Neil Young, alternative tunings that bring to mind Sonic Youth, a grunge-y emphasis on hooks and distorted melody, and even hints of emo in the vocals.

The magic is that - on Müscle Wörship's self-titled debut album from earlier this year - those disparate elements have been combined in a way that, against all odds, is nearly monolithic: 32 furious minutes of great and nearly great infectious hard rock. (And just to be clear: The whole record is 32 minutes.) The group's music has three very different methods of persuasion - forceful enough to grab you by the throat, accessible enough to suck you in, and intricate enough to get lost in. In that sense, the name is wholly appropriate: This is music that's all beautifully sculpted muscle.

Hunger is a human problem with millions of faces, but two related numbers can illuminate the size of the problem in the Quad Cities - and the heartwarming community generosity that's fighting it.

The first number: Christian Care served nearly 56,000 meals last year at its meal site, according to Executive Director Elaine Winter. The second: "Our budget [for food] is about a thousand dollars a year," she said.

The site at 2209 Third Avenue in Rock Island serves 19 meals week. (There's no lunch on Saturday or Sunday.) On average, then, it was feeding more than 57 people per meal. The cash cost per meal? Less then two cents.

What this one site illustrates is that food assistance beyond what taxpayer-funded government programs provide is a real, persistent need in the Quad Cities. And the community - through churches, charitable organizations, and individuals - has been meeting the need.

The bad news is that hunger appears to be growing.

On Minus Six's new album Come Out from Where You Hide, "Grassfed" boldly announces itself with gorgeously intertwined fast runs on sax and piano - downhill, then up, and back down again, a deft flash of early jazz grafted onto verses of piano rock. The instrumental breaks elevate the whole, with pianist Kevin Carton and saxophonist Matt Sivertsen given the space to playfully develop and explore.

It's telling that these sections represent the whole of the song's progression, as the verses and chorus are (relatively speaking) inert - which is where the album falters as a whole. The dominant style and overly consistent mix don't sustain interest over the course of the record, and fertile detours don't come quite often enough.

The grim math for Hope Creek Care Center is pretty simple. Changing it is not.

Right now, the 245-bed Rock Island County-run nursing home in East Moline is paid $127.48 by the State of Illinois for each Medicaid recipient it houses. The cost to care for each person, said Administrator Trudy Whittington, is $200 a day.

And because by law government-run homes can't turn away Medicaid recipients, typically more than 60 percent of Hope Creek residents are on the state/federal public-aid program.

So Hope Creek is nearly $4 million in the red each year from that disparity alone, and the current property-tax subsidy for the nursing home doesn't cover it. And that doesn't even consider other factors related to state government - such as late reimbursements and delays in approving Medicaid applications.

In that context, Rock Island County officials on October 10 bluntly announced that "after providing an option for the long-term-care needs for residents of our county since 1839 in one capacity or another, the county is looking to divest itself from the nursing-home business due to forces beyond our control that have made that commitment impossible to continue. ... The Rock Island County Board will take official action at their November 19 meeting to explore the potential of leasing or selling Hope Creek Care nursing home."

That statement brought immediate backlash - by the union representing Hope Creek workers, and by people concerned about the fate of Medicaid recipients who live at Hope Creek or might need to in the future. The county quickly retreated, and County Board Chair Phil Banaszek appointed an ad-hoc committee to look at other options.

Whittington said selling or leasing Hope Creek is Plan D and Plan E at this point - but the county would be remiss if it didn't do its homework on those alternatives. "We have to start looking at what Hope Creek's options are," she said last week. "If we don't do something, those may become our only options. ... That is ... our last resort."

The Rock Island County Board could as soon as its November 19 meeting take some sort of action on Hope Creek. The most likely course is approving a referendum question for the November 2014 ballot to raise property taxes in 2015 to further subsidize Hope Creek.

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