Phoenix men’s season comes to end

Fighting to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, the Green Bay men’s basketball team kicked off the Horizon League tournament against Milwaukee March 5 at the Resch Center.

The Phoenix shot 28.1 percent in the first half and led by six points at the break before a second-half explosion broke the game wide open. Junior Alec Brown led the team with 18 points.

“We were getting open shots,” Brown said. “We knew if we came out in the second half and kept playing our game, eventually shots would start to fall.”

Freshman forward Jordan Fouse paced the Phoenix with 12 points and 11 rebounds. After the game, Brown stressed Fouse’s importance to the team.

“Fouse is the most improved player I’ve seen coming in here,” Brown said. “It’s a lot of fun having another guy getting blocks out on the court when I can’t be there. He’s been fun to play with this year.”

Green Bay won all three meetings against Milwaukee this year, in which Brown scored a combined 69 points.

After advancing out of the first round, the Phoenix punched its ticket to Valparaiso to play the University of Illinois-Chicago. Green Bay split with UIC in the regular season, but the team remained confident as it headed to Valparaiso.

“We know we can beat anyone out there,” Fouse said. “We’ve beaten almost everyone in the conference. We know we can beat them — we just have to come out and play defense.”

Green Bay’s second-round matchup was a bit more competitive. The Phoenix led 34-29 at halftime, before the Flames battled back and took a late lead.

Senior guard Gary Talton hit a free throw to give UIC a 63-61 lead with seven seconds remaining. Fouse inbounded the ball to senior Brennan Cougill near half court, who then passed to sophomore point guard Keifer Sykes.

Sykes drove the ball into the lane, forcing Talton to help, leaving junior guard Sultan Muhammad open on the wing for a 3-point jumper. Muhammad hit the shot with 1.3 seconds on the clock, and the Phoenix won 64-63.

By defeating the Flames in round two, Green Bay advanced to face top-seeded Valparaiso in the semifinals. The Crusaders swept the regular-season series, defeating Green Bay by 12 points in Valparaiso and by 19 March 2 in Green Bay.

Entering the tournament, Valpo lost twice since Jan. 2. They finished the regular season with a conference record of 13-3, led by senior Ryan Broekhoff’s 15.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Fellow senior Matt Kenney had perhaps his best game of the season at Green Bay’s expense in the regular-season finale, scoring 21 points without missing a field goal.

But in the Horizon League semifinals March 9, the Phoenix gave the Crusaders all they could handle, and the game was once again decided in the final seconds.

After the first half, Valparaiso led Green Bay 29-24. The Phoenix trailed the Crusaders at halftime in both regular-season games.

Sykes led Green Bay with a season-high 31 points, while Broekhoff led Valpo with 25.

In the regular-season finale at the Resch Center, the Phoenix limited Broekhoff to seven points, which was the second time all season he had been held to single digits. But the senior from Australia was too much for the Phoenix in the tournament, as he connected on five of nine shots behind the arc, including the shot that decided the game.

In a hotly contested second half, the Phoenix led 69-67 with 6.3 seconds remaining. Broekhoff caught the inbounds pass, dribbled up the court and searched for his shot.

Fouse halted Broekhoff’s progress between half court and the top of the key. After nearly losing the ball on a crossover, Broekhoff launched a desperate 3-point jumper from the right wing with Brennan Cougill’s hand in his face.

The shot found the bottom of the net and ended Green Bay’s season.

The Phoenix finished 18-15 on the season, narrowly missing the Horizon League finals. Cougill was the team’s lone senior, so the majority of the team will return next season.

Eichler leads Phoenix into post-season

She’s physical, tough, and resilient, and now Green Bay senior forward Sarah Eichler is a career 1,000-point scorer. Eichler accomplished this rare feat, which has only been accomplished by 30 other women in the history of women’s basketball at No. 20/23 Green Bay, Feb. 14 in front of more than 2,000 fans against Cleveland State.

“It’s one of those things that is so far away as a freshman that you don’t even think about it,” Eichler said. “The next thing I know, people are counting down, 51 points away, 37 points away.”

Eichler said she hadn’t paid much attention to the hype surrounding her 1,000th point, but when it came, she was certainly excited.

“It’s an honor more than anything to be part of the club,” Eicher said. “The people who have come before me were great basketball players, and I’m honored to join them.”

Eichler became the second member of the team this season to join the 1,000-point club. Fellow senior guard Adrian Ritchie accomplished the feat earlier in the season and was proud of Eichler for joining the list.

“To see Sarah do it pays tribute to how hard she has worked the last four years,” Ritchie said. “She is a great player.  It’s definitely a well-deserved honor for her.”

It’s no secret that it takes a lot of hard work to get to where Eichler has gotten to today.

“Sarah has a very confident swagger to her,” Ritchie said. “She’s a sweetheart, but she knows what needs to be done inside the lines.”

Head coach of the Phoenix Kevin Borseth echoed Ritchie’s comments.

“She is relentless,” Borseth said. “She is very physical — she refuses to take no for an answer.”

Although Borseth only coached Eichler for one season, her lasting impact on him as a coach is evident.

“As a coach, you want your players to reach a level of success and when they do it, it brings a smile to your face,” Borseth said. “You do help a little bit with them, so when someone scores 1,000 points it makes you feel good.”

Eichler has been a workhorse since her days at Grafton High School. During her freshman year at UWGB, she averaged fewer than six points and three rebounds per game. Eichler started 19 games as a freshman and was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer team.

Eichler’s breakout season came her junior year at Green Bay. She finished fifth in the Horizon League in free throw shooting at 84.4 percent and finished eighth in the league in field-goal percentage at 45.8 percent. She averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game. She scored, at the time, a career-high 19 points and five rebounds in the Horizon League Championship Semifinal against the University of Illinois-Chicago.

This season, as a senior, Eichler has been solid yet again. She scored a career-high 26 points Nov. 24 against Richmond, which included a career-high five 3-pointers. In the same week, Eichler was named the Horizon League Player of the Week for the first time in her career.

In her final season as a member of the team, Eichler is averaging 12 points and four rebounds per game with a handful of games left. Eichler is looking to play in her fourth NCAA tournament later this month.

Green Bay downs Milwaukee Panthers

With its sights set on capturing a No. 3 seed and first-round bye in the Horizon League tournament, the Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball team completed its season sweep of the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Feb. 26, 78-61, at the Resch Center.

Junior center Alec Brown led all scorers with 28 points, a career high, and helped propel the Phoenix to victory by adding eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists.

Sophomore point guard Keifer Sykes shot 5-of-15 from the field but recorded six assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals. Fellow starters Jordan Fouse, Sultan Muhammad and Greg Mays combined for 26 points and 18 rebounds, while forward Brennan Cougill tallied six points and four rebounds off the bench.

But it was Brown’s accuracy from long range that made the difference for the Phoenix. His four 3-pointers were a career-best, and his 10-of-12 shooting from the field was his best single-game performance of the season.

“He was really confident,” said head coach Brian Wardle. “He was all rhythm shooting. He didn’t hesitate. When he’s doing that, we’re a very effective team offensively.”

However, it wasn’t until the second half that the Green Bay’s sharp shooting turned into a comfortable lead.

Green Bay jumped out to an early 18-9 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half, but turnovers and a few personal fouls on Green Bay’s part kept Milwaukee in contention. At halftime, the Phoenix maintained a 32-26 lead.

A jumper from Panthers guard Paris Gulley with 18:28 left in the second half cut the Phoenix’s lead to 34-32, but a layup from Mays coupled with a Muhammad 3-pointer and layup extended Green Bay’s lead to 42-34 with 16:37 remaining.

After a dunk from forward Demetrius Harris, Gulley shrunk Green Bay’s lead to 59-50 with another jumper at the 6:29 mark.

The turning point of the game came on the next play when Fouse passed to Brown who promptly sunk his third 3-pointer of the game. Two plays later, Brown drained his fourth and final 3-pointer, extending the Phoenix’s lead to 18 points.

The excitement from the crowd fueled the Phoenix down the stretch, ultimately putting the game out of reach. An emphatic dunk from Sykes with 1:13 remaining drew a controversial technical foul for hanging on the rim but ended any hopes of a comeback from Milwaukee.

“That was a huge win for us because this was a scary game,” Wardle said. “Playing your rival, you tell your guys to throw records out because you know they’re going to compete and play well, and they sure did.”

Wardle said he wasn’t happy with his team’s effort in the first half, but he went on to say that at halftime, he challenged his players to come out with more energy in the second half.

Sykes echoed that sentiment.

“The first half, we were flat, and we felt like we played to their level,” Sykes said. “Once we got the energy of the crowd behind us, we were able to separate ourselves in the game.”

Wardle’s team responded by shooting 17-of-30 from the field compared to 12-25 in the first half. The Phoenix also out-rebounded Milwaukee 18 to 10 in the second half and distributed the ball more efficiently, totaling 11 assists to the Panthers’ two.

With the win, the Phoenix improved to 16-13 this season and 10-5 in conference play. The team also moved into sole possession of third place in the Horizon League regular season standings. If the Phoenix holds on to the No. 3 seed, it will have the coveted first-round bye in the conference

“You want to be playing for something this time of year,” Wardle said. “So we have to beat the league leaders going into the conference tournament and get momentum there.”

Beja Shrine Circus enters Green Bay ring

Come one, come all to the Beja Shrine Circus where elephants will amaze you, lions and tigers will stun you and a human cannonball will fly 150 feet across the sky.

The Beja Shrine Circus performed March 1 to 3 at Green Bay Brown County Veterans Memorial Center.

The Beja Shrine Circus is sponsored by the Beja Shriners of Green Bay. Beja Shriners is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth. There are more than 500 Beja Shriner members in Green Bay. The Beja Shriner’s No. 1 fundraiser is the Beja Shrine Circus.

Beja helps support 22 Shriners Children Hospitals. The hospitals specialize in care for orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, cleft lip or palate and more. Regardless of ability to pay, they will be treated.

Fundraising activities are abundant for the Shriners, and the circus is another way they give back to the Green Bay community. Each year, thousands of children are given free tickets to attend the circus.

Many people put in time, effort and practice to make sure the circus runs smoothly.

The Ring mistress Michelle Audrey started the circus.

Audrey is one of the only women ring-masters in the current circus world. She worked to create an atmosphere to excite the audience from the start.

Other circus performers included elephants weighing around six tons and standing between 10 and 13 feet tall. The elephants are no strangers to the circus world and their tricks were unrestricted by their size. The elephants created pyramids, stood on one foot while standing on a table and other maneuvers in the ring.

The star of the Beja Shrine Circus, Mighty Bo, is the largest performing elephant on Earth. Elephant jokes claim they have a brain the size of a peanut, but his more-than-60-trick roster proved the misconceptions to be worth peanuts. Mighty Bo amazed the audience with his graceful and talented moves. No animal likes to complete a trick without reward, and Mighty Bo’s favorite rewards are red apples and sweet grain.

Bruno Blaszak is the lion and tiger trainer, whom some claim is wilder than the animals he trains. Blaszak grew up in Poland in a family of animal trainers. His family was part of the traveling circus Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey. The tigers and lions jumped through hoops, laid down, rolled over and for the finale walked on tight wire.

Blaszak currently lives in Florida with his eight big cats that require a total of 150 pounds of meat every day.

“Lions and tigers are basically a house cat, but they’re a supercharged version,” Blaszak said. “They’ve got bigger claws and bigger teeth and out of playful behavior they can leave you with pretty bad scratches and bites. I don’t recommend them for home use.”

The rest of the circus acts contained the Georgettes Magic Extravaganza, Cavorting Clowns, Aerialists and daredevil bikers.

“I liked the clowns, especially the one with the little dog that was dressed up like an elephant,” said Jordyn, the 5-year-old daughter of Jimena Duquaine of Green Bay.

The Georgettes Magic Extravaganza and the Cavorting Clowns kept the audience entertained while the circus crew changed scenery between acts. The Georgettes do high-flying leg kicks and dance to fast-paced music. The clowns provided side-splitting laughter as they completed silly acts.

The high-flying Aerialists climbed ropes to the top of the arena and twisted and twirled by their hair, one arm and one leg while holding another aerialists. For their second act, they juggled fire while being suspended in the air.

The daredevil bikers were a favorite of the crowd.

“I loved the dirt bikers,” said Brennan Vanwychen, a 14-year-old from Howard. “They were daring and kept me intrigued.”

These bikers showed no fear when they were caged in the sphere. They started the act with only three bikes and continued by adding two more bikers. They ended with five bikers weaving winding, and circling in the cage. The audience applauded and cheered as they completed this unthinkable feat. While the bikers were in the cage, a motocross rider performed aerial stunts, including backflips.

The final act of the night was Dave “The Bullet” Smith. He has been a human cannonball for more than 11 years. The audience went completely silent when The Bullet was loaded into the cannon and the countdown began.

“You can’t see the landing net just a little piece of sky, listening to a countdown to my blast-off,” Smith said. “After all these years and all these shows I know I’ve got one show and every time it could be fatal. That does cross my mind.”

The circus concluded after its March 3 show, but the Beja Shriners will continue to be active in the community.

Hawaiian pop/hip-hop artist stops at UWGB

Energetic stage presence and island influence attracts fans from all demographics including Good Times Programming. GTP brought rising Hawaiian pop/hip-hop artist Corey Pieper to campus March 14.

Also known as C-Piepz, the 22-year-old artist continues to gain followers outside his Milwaukee base, and his Phoenix Club performance solidified some new fans.

Erin Sunisa, senior vocal and theater performance major, played a role in booking Pieper for GTP. Sunisa thought having Pieper perform on campus would be a good change of pace.

“GTP always tries to bring a variety of acts to the campus, and rap/hip hop was something that hasn’t been done recently,” Sunisa said. “Corey Pieper is an up-and-coming artist, and we wanted UWGB to get a different taste of music.”

“From Milwaukee 2 the Islands,” a slogan often used by Pieper, represents his Hawaiian roots and Milwaukee where he was born and raised, both greatly influencing his lyrics. A friendly competition during his freshmen year in high school triggered Pieper to pursue a career in music. The competition was between rap group Global Warming and one Pieper started with a friend called UniQness. Pieper said there was not only a following of the two groups at their own school but surrounding schools showed interest as well. The two groups had a rap battle at the school talent show that year, setting an attendance record with the number of fans. The moment the set was finished, the crowd exploded with screams and applause.

“I remember thinking to myself while looking out at everyone, ‘Man, I could really picture myself doing this for a living,’” Pieper said.

Family, friends and fans’ demand for music, t-shirts and other merchandise pushed Pieper to the next level of his career.

“The more I started to pursue music, the more people started noticing and recognizing me at parties and public places,” Pieper said. “It was a good feeling, so I decided to stick with it.”

As a young, rising artist, Pieper faces challenges that require him to stay focused. His family, friends and girlfriend have been his support system since day one.

“Even when they don’t necessarily agree with certain things, they always stand behind me and are there if I ever need anything,” Pieper said.

Pieper appreciated the love and support Green Bay fans showed.

“I had a blast performing at UWGB,” Pieper said. “Everyone was extremely nice from the moment we got there until the moment we left.”

As his career continues to grow, new material is in the works. Not only does he hope to return to UWGB, but he also wants to bring in a bigger crowd the next time around.

Alex Drath, future UWGB student, attended the show and was beyond impressed with Pieper. Drath said Pieper’s communication with the audience and his energy made the show a success.

“Corey Pieper is a positive and inspirational artist and person,” Drath said. “He has such an amazing talent.”

Overall, attendance showed that the Hawaiian rap artist was well received at UWGB.

“A lot of people came and danced and stayed to chat with Corey. It was a lot of fun,” Sunisa said.

Music gives attention to environment issues

UW-Green Bay students and faculty joined in efforts to enforce daily environmentally friendly practices. Compartmentalized garbage bins, hydration stations and a charge for plastic bags at the Corner Store are just a couple of things being done to promote a green campus.

At the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts March 1, the UWGB Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble showed their support for the environmentally conscious curriculum. UWGB Director of Bands, Kevin Collins, conducted a performance that not only displayed musical talent, but it embodied the concept of keeping the environment unpolluted.

The creative theme for the concert was “Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.” It made connections with the university’s environmental viewpoints and recycled old music to new.

Stephanie Sension, senior education major, believes the creative effort the band made to create awareness for the environment is an approach that should be utilized by others in the future.

“I think this was a good choice for the first concert of the spring semester,” Sension said. “Any attempt to better the environment is very respectable, but I truly think that using creativity when coming up with a strategy attracts more people to create awareness.”

The Symphonic Band performed compositions from notable composers, fitting within the theme “reused, repurposed and recycled.” These older songs were reused and performed in new ways. Some of the songs from the chosen composers were “Joy Revisited” by Frank Ticheli, “Highland Echoes” by Larry Daehn, and a collection of hymns by Giovanni P. da Palestrina arranged by John Moss.

The Wind Ensemble recycled arrangements from two works including “Suite from the Dansyre” by Tilman Susato, arranged by Larry Dunnigan, and “Giles Farnaby Suite” by Gordon Jacob. All performed pieces highlighted the theme of the concert.

Senior Psychology major Haley Oelke applauds the efforts the Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble have made to keep this campus aware of environmental concerns.

“Seeing an organization take their talents and utilize them for this cause is inspirational,” Oelke said. “I hope to see more groups on campus following in the bands’ footsteps, and I believe it will make a positive impact on the environment and well-being of our community.”

The concert differed from those the band has performed in the past, setting it apart in a positive way. The innovative theme made an interesting show that many related to.

The band itself and the department both played a role in the success of the environmentally friendly concert. Collins experience pushed the Music Program here at UWGB to new levels since he took over as Director of Bands in 1995. At the beginning of his time as director, Collins led the remodeling of music practice and instructional facilities at UWGB.

Collins has conducted honor bands throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest, and many other professional and other ensembles as well.

The “reused, repurposed, recycled” theme is not only catchy, but creats awareness of the environment through something new—the sound of music.

Radium Girls light up Weidner

Catherine Donahue was an ordinary woman of the 1920s. She had a husband and two children. Her daily duties included laundry, dinner and bedtime stories. But times were tough. Rather than let her husband work himself to death, she decided to find a job. U.S. Radium Company was her salvation and ultimately her end.

Presented by UW-Green Bay Theatre and written by Melanie Marnich, “These Shining Lives” recounts the heroic tale of four women who lost their lives at the hands of their employer. Showcased Feb. 28, March 1, 2 and 6 through 9 at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, “These Shining Lives” whisks audience members back to the roaring ‘20s, a time of empowerment and change for women. They could vote, smoke and drink. For the first time in U.S. history, daughters had a chance to better themselves and wives could contribute financially to their households.

While the pay was decent, no amount of money could justify the pain suffered by the workers of U.S. Radium Company.

Their job was relatively simple- paint glow-in-the-dark numbers on watch and clock faces. To make the paint glow, the company used radium, common in the 20s. Many believed radium had healing effects, and it was used in elixirs and pills.

“Some people even bathed in radium-infused water,” said John Mariano, play director and associate professor of theatre.

As time went on, it became apparent these assumptions were false. Radium causes necrosis, localized decaying of tissue.

Because the paint brushes lost their shape easily, painters were instructed to shape the bristles with their tongue and lips. After a prolonged amount of time workers began to experience body aches and pains. Some women lost their teeth and jaw bones. Overall, the bones of the women deteriorated.

The Radium Girls chose to stand, hand in hand, and take on the company. After six appeals, Catherine, one of the workers, won, not just for herself, but for workers across the U.S.

“The relationships they made while working together really gave them the strength to take the company on,” Mariano said.

The play focuses on these relationships. Catherine, Charlotte, Frances and Pearl sat next to each other for eight hours a day, five days a week for six years. They grew to respect and love one another. These women stood together in happy times and sad, drawing strength from their friendship when they could not find it within themselves.

The six-member cast played multiple roles and accounted for 17 characters total. Stephanie Frank played the resilient Catherine. Frances, the quiet member of the Radium Girls, was portrayed by Abigail Lee. The sassy Charlotte was played by Chelsea Crevcoure. Erin Sunisa was Pearl, the not-so-great joke teller of the group. Andrew Delaurelle was Catherine’s supportive husband Tom, and Randall J. Tranowski filled the role of the evil Mr. Reed, supervisor at U.S. Radium.

“These Shining Lives” is a heartfelt story. During some scenes ,audience members laughed and at others sniffles could be heard throughout the Weidner Center.

“There were so many moments that got to me,” said Cody Van Ruden, freshman theatre major. “The part where Catherine and Charlotte sat down together and talked of their friendship, their strength and their problems really struck me.”

The Radium Girls were the first women in the U.S. to publicly stand up and fight. They showed people that just because they were women didn’t mean they were disposable.

“We’re very proud to be able to do this play,” Mariano said. “It’s educational and based on a true story. We’re telling a story that doesn’t usually get told and putting a human face on it. It allows students to walk in their shoes.”

Catherine said her biggest fear is to be invisible, to die and be forgotten. Through “These Shining Lives,” the bravery of the Radium Girls shines on.

War rages in new ‘Game of Thrones’ season

Winter has passed for those living in the U.S., but for the characters of HBO’s hit television series “Game of Thrones,” it’s still coming.

Fans of the series have hungered like the Stark’s dire wolves for new episodes of the series that blends historical epic with mythical fantasy since its last season ended in June.

The series, based on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of novels by George R. R. Martin, follows a number of intertwining narratives from the far reaches of the fantasy realm of Westeros. Clans and noble families are in constant battle over the Iron Throne of the land. Meanwhile, supernatural forces threaten to spread death throughout the land.

The series is notable for the way it builds suspense. There is a sense of danger, since it airs on HBO and has less scruples so far as content goes, and that its most prominent characters are in constant danger of being killed off.

More than this, though, the show is a pioneer in television. Instead of other series that neatly wrap up plots from episode to episode and season to season, “Game of Thrones” takes a cue from “Lost,” presenting a seemingly endless story full of treacherous turns and surprises.

The final image of season two was of one of the much whispered about whitewalkers, mythical ice zombies, looming over the loveable yet fat night watchman Sam’s cold body. The season three premiere begins with Sam being saved from danger and then abandons the idea of frozen zombies, perhaps not to be mentioned again until season’s end.

From here the season’s first episode, “Valar Dohaeris,” touches on the lives of each of the show’s other main characters. Jon Snow, bastard of season one protagonist Ned Stark and rising star of the nightwatch, continues his infiltration of wildling society.

Dejected dwarf Tyrion adjusts to life as an outcast in exile, realizing it’s much more far flung from his life as an outcast in luxury than he expected. The kind-hearted Margaery adjusts to her new life as the wife of the easily detestable King Joffrey. And Daenerys, the mother of dragons, has a discomforting run-in with a slave salesman and his army of eunuch baby murderers.

The show’s threads constantly near each other and bounce off of one another like charged particles. It’s a delight trying to guess how the actions of one character will affect other arcs later on, but there’s also a horror to this as well. None of the show’s expansive collection of characters is ever safe, and while it’s easy to pick favorites, it’s extremely likely that none of them will survive until the end.

“Valar Dohaeris” does a great job of re-orienting viewers to the characters and plot of the series. There were a lot of great character moments here from Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys — especially her run-in with the slaver and his translator. One can only hope that the remainder of the series offers them each ample screentime.

The interaction between the deplorable Joffrey and his saintly new wife Margaery was also fun. Might this be a new beginning for Joffrey, one where he involves himself in charity work instead of the torturing of prostitutes? Doubtful, but one can imagine the scenario with amusement.

While those who have read the novels may feel they know where the plot is going, the series does a great job of throwing a wrench into the works every now and again. Last season featured the introduction of a made-for-tv romance for Robert Stark, and interviews with cast have already hinted at more than one deviation from the plots of the books this season.

Overall, “Game of Thrones” continues to be one of the most engrossing and promising offerings on television. And with more than a million people downloading the series illegally each week, HBO offering up free weekend subscriptions so people can view the premiere, and millions of subscribers tuning in each week, it’s only reasonable to assume that it will grow to become of the biggest events on television as well.

If the first episode of the season is any indication, season three will continue to bring fans epic and complex storylines the series is loved for.

Rock giants downsize sound on ‘Mosquito’

When The Yeah Yeah Yeahs released “Mosquito” April 16, ending a nearly half decade of silence from the group, they may have released the most important album of the band’s prestigious career.

The album, which follows their 2009’s “It’s Blitz!,” would be considered an experiment by most critics, were it not released by the band who brought experimental rock to the mainstream when they released their 2003 breakthrough, “Fever to Tell.”

Whereas “It’s Blitz!” was loud and electronic, with dance tracks such as “Heads Will Roll” making up its core, “Mosquito” remains much more reserved. The band retains its usage of low-fi production techniques while still managing to present a very polished product.

The opening track, “Sacrilege,” appropriately calls in a gospel choir for its chorus, evoking an image of the muses from Disney’s “Hercules” accompanying Karen O in her cries of “I plead, I pray. It’s sacrilege, you say.”  The sheer grandeur of this moment fit into such a scaled-down track makes for one of the most exciting sonic moments in recent memory.

Other tracks on the album would sound perfectly at home on “Fever to Tell.” “Always,” for example, is a simple track that plays with Cyndi Lauper charm and detached urgency not unlike that of the band’s breakthrough hit, “Maps.”

Karen O’s vocals cast her into the character of a playful phantom of the night, painting imagery into the brains of listeners, while carelessly ignoring convention.

On “Mosquito,” the album’s title track, she buzzes and whispers about insects feasting on blood before loudly proclaiming that she’d like to do the same. She is and always has been an original — a unique musical tour de force that takes control of her lyrics as well as her music.

Appropriately, the strings of lead guitarist Nick Zinner are more reserved on this album. The rest of the band, no matter how important, seems secondary to Karen O’s energy.

Nevertheless, the musicianship on the album is extremely tight. “Under the Earth,” a track featuring synth strings, is a perfect example of this. The drums bubble and pop seamlessly with the rhythmic bass. Karen’s vocals on the track are reminiscent of the much-acclaimed Alex Winston, while the song itself recalls tracks from the band’s own “Is, Is” EP.

The outro in “These Paths” is also impressive — an electronic experiment in vocal samples that was probably at least a bit inspired by indie-electronic darlings Purity Ring.

Each of the tracks speed into each other at a jarring pace that leaves the album as a whole feeling choppy. Still, the signature identity of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs leaves “Mosquito” inexplicably coherent, even when Karen O goes from singing about serious topics such as the emotional nature of sex or drug abuse to gleefully shouting that she wants to be an alien on “Area 52.”

The album culminates with the tragic “Wedding Song,” probably the most personal-sounding track ever recorded by the band. With sparse piano egging her on, Karen O utters the lyrics, “With every breath I breathe, I’m making history. With your name on my lips, the ages fall to bits.”

The track is more than likely a proclamation of Karen O’s love for her husband, video director Barnaby Clay. The rock goddess’ turbulent love life has often been the subject of much scandal, and the track celebrates the miracle of a healthy relationship. It also offers up a less tawdry, more mature side to the rambunctious punk princess who, when she’s not designing fashion or recording with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, one of the most important art bands of all time, has done things like recording the soundtrack to the 2009 adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Despite its longer length , frantic energy allows “Mosquito” to fly by. This, along with the enigmatic nature of Karen O’s lyrics, make it extremely easy to listen to over and over again.

“Mosquito” is one of the best albums to come out thus far in 2013, made only more exciting by the fact that The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been confirmed as one of the ground stage headliners for this year’s Summerfest music festival in Milwaukee.

‘The New Normal’ adopts change

NBC’s “The New Normal” hopes to capitalize on an era that embraces the abnormal — from Lady Gaga to Ke$ha.

The show follows partners Bryan, played by Andrew Rannells, and David, played by Justin Bartha. Both are contently living in Los Angeles when they decide to have a baby.

Meanwhile, a young mother named Goldie, played by Georgia King, discovers her husband Clay is cheating on her.

Distraught and desperate for a change in scenery, Goldie takes her 9 year-old daughter Shania, played by Bebe Wood, and drives across the country to California to start a new life.

To finance her dream of becoming a lawyer, Goldie signs up to be a surrogate mother. She requests to carry a baby for a homosexual couple and is introduced to Bryan and David.

Goldie’s nana Jane arrives in California soon after, set on talking her granddaughter out of the pregnancy. Though a bigot, she finds herself roped into the group along with Bryan’s assistant, Rocky, played by NeNe Leakes.

Together they form a pseudo-family brought together by Bryan and David’s impending parenthood.

“The New Normal” shows the many variations in family composition present in modern society. The show has David and Bryan as a gay couple with a surrogate. It has Goldie and Clay as young, divorced, parents still trying to recapture their dreams after having a child. There is also Jane, who was left to raise a granddaughter after the mother left. We have David as an only child and Bryan who is one of six siblings. This diversity is nice for people who don’t have traditional families.

Probably the best thing about David and Bryan’s relationship is the contrast between the more feminine television producer Bryan and the masculine doctor and football fan David. I appreciate the fact that the writers kept David’s character so realistic. Not all gay men are like the antique shopping, childish Bryan, and it is so important that people recognize that sexual preference does not change a person’s entire being.

As pleased as I am with the depictions of David and Bryan individually, their chemistry on camera falls flat. Whereas Andrew Rannells is gay off-camera, Justin Bartha is straight but a highly involved gay rights activist. Seeing an actor like Bartha, who is known for his roles in “National Treasure” and “The Hangover,” play a homosexual is difficult to get past. Though everyone is more than accepting of Neil Patrick Harris playing a womanizer on “How I Met Your Mother,” Bartha’s role isn’t as easy to accept.

The important thing about “The New Normal” is that it is not about homosexuality but diversity. Bryan and David live, love and fight like any heterosexual couple would, and in the end the show is less about them and more about the diversity of families we have in our society.