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Reviews

NONFICTION

Skiing the North Shore

By Andrew Slade

There & Back Books, $16

If there’s a better guide to cross-country skiing the North Shore, we haven’t seen it yet. Duluth resident Andrew Slade provides the skinny on 35 skinny-ski jewels along Minnesota’s ersatz coast—from urban skiing on lighted trails along the Lester River to remote destinations along the Gunflint, where hard-core adventurers on the Banadad Trail can overnight in a yurt. In addition to maps, trail-access information, and difficulty ratings, this easy-to-navigate guide includes Slade’s top picks for trails that have the “best grooming,” trails that are “absolutely free,” and—our favorite—“trails my mother would like.” —JOEL HOEKSTRA


NONFICTION

Gopher Gold

By Tim Brady

MHS Press, $25

If you think a new stadium will turn U of M football from terrible into trophy-winning, a review of the 1924 season might give you hope. It was the first year in Memorial Stadium, but the new digs hadn’t helped: Facing Illinois in mid-November, the Gophers were winless in Big Ten play, and when the opposition scored in the opening minutes, things looked grim. As Minnesota Monthly contributor Tim Brady notes in this entertaining overview of the U’s roots, faculty, and oddball traditions, it was yet another moment when success looked unlikely. But as with several tales recounted here, Minnesota triumphed, besting the Illini 20-7. —J.H.


MUSIC

The Ghost and the Hired Gun

The Alarmists

Instrument Control Records

“Hired Gun,” a song from the Alarmists’ debut LP, is one of those tunes that hides in your head, making occasional surprise guest appearances. It’s the most assertive song on the album, starting tamely, quickly building, then tumbling between bouts of crooning and rocking out. Too bad the band hasn’t channeled this playful, reckless spirit into more of their songs. Overall, their music feels restrained and careful. The Alarmists have an enthusiastic following, though, matched by an earnest, energetic performance. The next time they’re onstage, pay the five bucks and check them out live. —JESSICA CHAPMAN

* Click here to visit our Music Clips page and listen to a song by The Alarmists.


MUSIC

Planet Earth

Prince
COLUMBIA Records
How much trouble am I in if I don’t like Prince? I mean, fine, Prince is a legend here and elsewhere. Many of his songs are timelessly catchy. But the artist’s latest offering, Planet Earth, does little to confirm his iconic status. To its credit, the album does boast an impressive kaleidoscope of influences—country, hip-hop, disco, jazz, and R&B—and Prince’s vocal range continues to be amazing, of course. All in all, though: eh. Consider downloading “Mr. Goodnight” for a drowsy dose of the singer’s sexy voice or “Chelsea Rodgers” for its Bee Gees feel. Otherwise, stick with “Raspberry Beret.” —J.C.


UP AND COMING

Worries about spilling innocent blood led lawmakers to kill a plan to revive Minnesota’s death penalty in 2004. Just two years earlier, DNA exonerated a St. Paul man imprisoned for rape since 1985. That sort of injustice led Chicago author/attorney Scott Turow (Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof) to become a public critic of the death penalty—and his outspokenness is why the Innocence Project of Minnesota tapped him for their November 3 fundraiser. Our state no longer garrotes the guilty, but can you call a system that jails even one innocent man just? —J.H.

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