Steve's Favorite Music of 2020
A List

Boy what a year, huh? Okay, let's get on with it.

Favorite Albums
1. Hum - Inlet
2. Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters
3. Kahil El’Zabar - America the Beautiful
4. Snarls - Burst
5. Little Wings - Zephyr
6. The Mountain Goats - Songs for Pierre Chuvin
7. Fluisteraars - Bloem
8. Deerhoof - Love Lore
9. Katatonia - City Burials
10. Adrianne Lenker - Songs and Instrumentals
11. Laura Marling - Song For Our Daughter
12. Jeff Rosenstock - No Dream
13. Keiyaa - Forever, Ya Girl
14. Kaatayra - Toda Historia pela Frenta
15. Wye Oak - EP
16. Blake Mills - Mutable Set
17. Future Islands - As Long As You Are
18. Jusell, Prymek, Sage, Shiroishi - Fuubutsushi
19. Necrot - Mortal
20. Nicolas Jaar - Cenizas
21. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys - Innocent Country 2
22. Oranssi Pazuzu - Mestarin kynsi
23. Johanna Warren - Chaotic Good
24. Gaytheist - How Long Have I Been on Fire?
25. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full

The Annual Short List Of Albums That Are Unquestionably Excellent, But Are Too Intense, Long, Difficult, or Otherwise Exhausting To Listen To On A Level Which Would Lead Them To Become My "Favorite"
1. Fiona Apple - Fetch The Boltcutters*
2. The Microphones - Microphones in 2020
3. Armand Hammer - Shrines
4. Ka - Descendants of Cain

* Yes, I know that I also put Boltcutters on the regular list—all the way at #2 nonetheless! I know! But somehow that album belongs on both lists. It's unequivocally a masterpiece of an album, and I enjoyed the hell out of it when I listened to it over the first few days of its existence. It blew up in the culture at a time when we needed it, and it was a profound cultural experience. And it slaps. And yet, in the months since, with everything that's gone on in the world, I just feel like I can't go back to it. It already carries such a deep, weird, intense significance, that I don't know when or how anyone can go back to it and just give it a casual listen, singing along. It's weird man!

Favorite Songs:

1. Shamir - “On My Own”
2. Snarls - “Walk in the Woods”
3. Pure X - “Middle America"
4. Kahil El’Zabar - “America The Beautiful (Instrumental)” + “America The Beautiful”
5. Jeff Rosenstock - “Monday at the Beach”
6. Jeff Rosenstock - “Ohio Tpke”
7. Johanna Warren - “Rose Potion”
8. Little Wings - “It’s Only”
9. Destroyer - “Crimson Tide”
10. Katatonia - “Heart Set to Divide”
11. This Is the Kit - “Coming To Get You Nowhere”
12. Hum - “Shapeshifter”
13. The Beths - “I’m Not Getting Excited”
14. Moses Sumney - “Cut Me”
15. Wye Oak - “Walk Soft”
16. Fiona Apple - “Fetch the Boltcutters”
17. Adrianne Lenker - “Anything”
18. Jessy Lanza - “Anyone Around”
19. This Is The Kit - “This Is What You Did”
20. Run The Jewels - “Ooh LA LA”

Best Guitar Chord

1. Pure X - "Middle America"
If the first 10 seconds of this song was the entire album, it would probably be my album of the year. Just play it on repeat for a while, it's all I need.

Dont Shy Away

I'm gonna post my Favorite Albums of the Year list tomorrow or the next day. Loma probably won't be on it. Sorry, Loma. But if you come back to me in, say, 4 months, I'd bet this would squeeze its way on, maybe somewhere near top half even. What I mean is it hasn't fully connected with me yet, but I can feel that something's there. It's just buried a bit and needs some time. Especially over another shitty few months of the shitty world and the cold air and hopefully some snow. Yeah, some snow would move this thing up to at least #7.

Toda História pela Frente

Lo-fi bedroom Brazilian rainforest black metal melted and deconstructed past the point of psychedelic and damn near back to where it started. If that sounds good to you, welcome.

Forever, Ya Girl

Lo-fi bedroom Erykah-Badu-ian neo soul melted and deconstructed past the point of psychedelic and damn near back to where it started. If that sounds good to you, welcome.

Ambrose Akinmusire
on the tender spot of every calloused moment

Y'know, I don't usually like trumpet jazz. They're just so shrill. Except for Miles Davis, but that's fucking obvious.

Anyway Ambrose Akinmusire is trumpet jazz, but I actually like it. He kinda plays like Miles though.

The Mountain Goats
Getting Into Knives

With the (glaring) exception of Songs for Pierre Chuvin, the Mountain Goats first full length album of the pandemic and a glorious return to the lo-fi tape deck recording of his early days, I could use the same boilerplate format to review this second album of the pandemic as I could with every Mountain Goats full length of the last, oh, 10 years. In short: {Album title} isn't bad by any means, but it lacks the energy of Darnielle's best work. Still, I think it might at least be a little better than {previous album}, but I'll have to sit with it for a while before I have any stronger feelings. {Steve then sits a little longer but ends up with no stronger feelings and never really returns to the album once the next one is released.}

Songs for Pierre Chuvin though. Fuckin rules.

Adrianne Lenker
Songs and Instrumentals

Big Thief is on an untouchable run in the last couple years, and apparently this includes their lead singer's solo albums. I listened to this album (well, the songs album at least) once, and by the second listen I knew every song. I don't know how she does it.

Jusell, Prymek, Sage, Shiroishi
Fuubutsushi (風物詩)

This isn't the best jazz album of all time. Or the best jazz album of the year. I don't think it will make my top 10 albums of the year, maybe not even the top 20? There's nothing particularly profound about it, no boundaries being broken, no new musical voice that demands to be heard. I can't hum any of its melodies, I can't remember which track does what, or which is my favorite, and as of this moment I don't even remember the name of the ensemble that composed and performed it.

Still, Fuubutsushi is one of the most genuinely calming collections of music I've ever listened to. Just absolute laser-focused tranquility, every beat of every track. Start with some ECM jazz, a little Eno-level ambient chording, balance it out with some light chamber string work, sprinkle on some ethereal field recordings, and the occasional jingle of hand chime percussion. It's almost too much, leaning dangerously into farmers market yoga meditation CDs, or the in-store music at MUJI.

But fuck that, I love MUJI.

This is the Kit
Off Off On

French post-indie-prog-jazz-folk. Saxophones and banjos and French accents. And jams.

Kahil El'Zabar
Kahil El'Zabar's America the Beautiful

There's still hope for this country, and this album is proof.

Future Islands
As Long as You Are

There's absolutely nothing about this new Future Islands album that makes it any different than their last two or three. When I heard the advance singles, I could only shake my head and sigh and admit that, after the bummer that was The Far Field maybe I was done with Future Islands.

And then it comes out and I listen to it in full, and it might actually be their 2nd or 3rd best album! I can't account for it, I can't point out what makes it stand out. It just works. The songs are "better," the vocals are "feeling it". Whatever any of that means. I've already listened to it more than I ever listened to Far Field, maybe more than Singles and On the Water. Sometimes it just works I guess.


Guess what kind of music these guys play?


Deerhoof released a new album in which they cover and melodize songs (and poems and drones and excerpts and process experiments) by Ornette Coleman, J.D. Robb, Voivod, Earl Kim, Knight Rider, Raymond Scott, Mauricio Kagel, Eddie Grant, Gary Numan, Stockhausen, The Beach Boys, Gerald Fried, Pauline Oliveros, Kermit the Frog, James Tenney, Silver Apples, The Police, Kraftwerk, John Williams, Morton Feldman, Sun Ra, Parliament, Asha Puthli, Ennio Morricone, Milton Babbitt, The B52s, Sofia Gubaidulina, Vinicius De Moraes & Baden Powell, Dionne Warwick, David Graeber, Derek Bailey, William Hanna & Hoyt Curtin, Anthony Braxton, Gyorgy Kurtag, Eric Siday, Igor Stravinsky, Caetano Veloso, Luigi Nono, Krzysztof Penderecki, John Cage, George Brecht, The Velvet Underground, and Laurie Anderson, and it shockingly—although not really shockingly because this is Deerhoof we're talking about—works. Honestly I'd already put it in the top 5 of their catalog.

The Microphones
The Microphones in 2020

The Microphones in 2020 is a beautiful personal essay in the form of a beautiful personal 40 minute song in the form of a beautiful personal 1 track album. Like much of Phil Elverum's recent beautiful personal output, it deserves an award and I'll never listen to it a second time.


I've never really enjoyed Boris before. More than that, I've never even really understood Boris. Who are they? What are they doing? Is it drone? Is it noise? Is it metal? Is it electronic? Is it a band? Or a person? Do they only collaborate with other artists? What's the deal with Boris?

But then they put out this new album NO, and answer all my questions with very little room for confusion. This is a metal album by a metal band, hard stop. Okay well maybe not total trad metal, it has bits of hardcore and maybe some noise and punk in there, but not unlike the Oozing Wound album from last year (which I loved), this is just straight up nasty riffage. Crushingly intense. Not terribly intricate, but limber enough to make me wonder why they'd just been doing drone shit all those years. Or maybe they didn't? Did they? What were they doing that whole time?

12.31.2020 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2020Queens
A List

Boy what a year, huh? Okay, let's get on with it.

1. Caleta 111 (Queens) - Ceviche
2. Its-It (San Francisco) - Ice cream sandwiches
3. Emily (Manhattan) - Emily burger
4. Talula’s (Asbury Park) - Pepperoni honey pizza
5. F&F Pizza (Brooklyn) - Sausage sage and brown butter pizza
6. Phayul (Queens) - Hot sauce
7. Peter Pan Donuts (Brooklyn) - Donut
8. Arepa Lady (Queens) - Arepa de choclo
9. Randazzo Pizza (Brooklyn) - Chorizo pizza
10. Tung Tung (Brooklyn) - Char siu
11. Pastrami Queen (Manhattan) - Pastrami sandwich
12. Ugly Baby (Brooklyn) - Kang prik
13. Korzo (Brooklyn) - Korzo Burger
14. Hassan Halal Meat & Grocery (Brooklyn) - Kebab
15. Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Queens) - Potherb mustard salad
16. Regina’s Grocery (Manhattan) - Meatball sandwich
17. Thaan (Queens) - Various Thai things
18. Original American Chicken (Queens) - grilled chicken and rice
19. Los Tacos No. 1 (Manhattan) - Tacos
20. SriPraPhai (Queens) - Duck curry

12.31.2020 - by Steve
Arepa LadyQueens
Arepa de choclo

Arepa Lady began in lower case, "the arepa lady" who became a sensation running an arepa cart around Queens a few years ago. But then recently her two sons decided to capitalize the operation (get it??), and now it's Arepa Lady, a full-on brick and mortar restaurant in Jackson Heights, literally one block away from my new place. I don't know if they're the best arepas in the neighborhood, because there are so many arepa options around here, but I'm perfectly comfortable putting them at #1 on the arepa de choclo alone. Get it with chicharron, and you're basically eating super-powered Colombian pancakes and bacon. Everything else here is good too of course, but the de choclo is the winner. This is actually the first case where I've actually lived so close to a legit amazing restaurant, and we're trying hard not to just eat it every week. Maybe tonight though?

12.31.2020 - by Steve
F&F PizzaBrooklyn
Sausage and sage pizza

A few years ago, before I lived here, I made a visit to a restaurant called Frankie's 457 Spuntino. I wrote about it. Look it up, won't you? Well so about a year ago, Frankie's opened up a slice shop called F&F, right next door (although they also have a pizza restaurant called Frank's, on the same block. It's all very confusing), and I ran into one of those situations where suddenly, out of nowhere, every food-ish type media outlet was casually referring to F&F as one of the best pizza joints in the city. Lucky for me, I happen to get my hair cut at a place right across the street, and stopped by after a pre-pandemic haircut to get a slice. Pepperoni, I believe, because they were out of everything else that evening. It was good, but I wasn't fully moved to declare F&F the best anything.

Fast forward to this year—I dunno, August? (I'm just posting this now because I forgot to back then. It's been a stressful year okay?). I was in the neighborhood again, and thought I'd give it another shot. This time they were fully stocked, and specifically pushing this one particular pie, hot sausage with sage and brown butter. Say no more! And this time around, yes, absolutely ready to declare F&F the best something.

Without going too far, in terms of preparation or presentation or thankfully price, F&F is absolutely dabbling in "elevated" pizza. The dough has a sourdough bite, the sausage and sage are conservatively spread, and it's cooked to just a little more of a browned char than at your average slice place. And it all comes together absolutely beautifully, the cheese and grease and brown butter sage caramelizing together into a rich singular thing, all on a paper plate for about $4.50. Best pizza in the city? Impossible question. But as far as your standard NY style triangle slice joint goes, sure, yes, I don't think I've had better.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Regina's GroceryManhattan
Meatball parm

Regina's is a new-fake-old Italian deli in a real-old space in the old-fake-new Lower East Side. The guy who runs it was rude as hell and I waited a half hour for my order, but I wasn't even mad because this was the best meatball sandwich I've had in this town.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Amdo KitchenQueens

I had to look up the fact that this momo truck is called "Amdo Kitchen." As far as I'm concerned it's just "that momo truck outisde of Phayul with the Golden Momo Award advertisement on the side." As I said in the Phayul post (scroll down a few why don'tcha?), this little corner of Jackson Heights is swarming with momo trucks and carts. This is one of them. But they won a Golden Momo award, so of course I'm gonna eat at this one!

Good momos. Better than Phayul's. Hot sauce wasn't nearly as good. Now if I could get Phayul's hot sauce with this truck's momos...

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Sammy's Fish BoxThe Bronx
Lobster roll

It was so nice and Spring-like on a mid-December afteroon, we took a trip to City Island and ate lobster rolls. I will never get used to how galldang expensive lobster rolls are. But these were good ones at least.

(Please see this post about Johnny's Reef to read about the weird marvel of NYC that is City Island.)

12.30.2020 - by Steve

Okay tacos. Don't know why I'm posting about them. Moving on.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Lamb chops, thenthuk, momos

According to sources my new neighborhood has the largest population Tibetan and Nepali people outside of Asia. I can think of one or two Tibetan or Nepali restaurants in the entirety of the Twin Cities, but on one block of one street a quick walk from here, there are at least 6. Not to mention all the momo trucks that linger around the area. I mean the topic of Jackson Heights' mind-bogglingly diverse food options is a whole thing that I can barely even wrap my head around, but the sheer density of Himalayan restaurants alone is a topic in itself.

Of all these spots, Phayul seems to be the one that grabs the most acclaim from people (although if we're judging purely on curb appeal, I'd have to say Himalayan Yak is the king. How can you ignore a place called Himalayan Yak?) It was a while ago that we ate here, so I can't get into too much detail, other than the fact that it was pretty good. But! The real highlight of meal was the hot sauce. Which isn't to minimize the quality of the lamb chops and momos and thenthuk—remember me just saying they were pretty good? But the two hot sauces that came with the momos were both out of this world. Truly some of the best hot sauce I've ever had. No idea what was in either of them, but they were rich and flavorful without losing any heat, and complimented every dish absolutely perfectly. I was gobsmacked; didn't even know that Tibetan cuisine included hot sauce.

There's a certain category of food rating where something can be so good I don't even want to eat it again in fear that it will disappoint me next time, and I think Phayul's hot sauce falls into this category. Their lamb chops and momos? Sure, I'll eat em again.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Maison PickleManhattan
24 layer chocolate cake

I didn't mention in the post below that we went to Emily for my birthday, which was already almost 4 weeks ago because I'm terrible at updating this blog. While we were in Manhattan for such a special day (my birthday), we decided to go all out and take a bus (you're not a real New Yorker until you realize that sometimes the bus is better than the subway) to the Upper West Side to get a slice of 24-layer chocolate cake from Maison Pickle. This place seems to want to be famous for its french dip sandwich, but has seemingly become more famous for its 24-layer cakes. Thus, us on a bus.

(I was going to add more here, but I just wrote that sentence and now I cannot continue. This review has peaked. The cake was good but not hype-worthy.)

12.09.2020 - by Steve

Some people say the Emily burger is the best burger in the city. I'm not going to go as far as to say that it is; when I ate it, it was delicious, but I felt that I was more impressed by the burger at Mu (a precisely constructed work of burger art), and more spiritually satisfied by the burger at Andrew's Luncheonette (like a good no bullshit midwest bar burger).

However. If you were to come up to me right now, with a tray containing a Mu burger, an Andrew's burger, and an Emily burger... I think I would choose to eat the Emily burger.

What does that mean?

12.09.2020 - by Steve
Thanksgiving dinner

You don't need me to tell you that Thanksgiving was weird this year. Erin and I (and you, hopefully) decided to stay home and get a pre-made dinner with all the trimmins from Bubby's, a down-home comfort food diner in Tribeca. Bubby's, coincidentally, started in 2000 as a pop-up pie shop on Thanksgiving day! They weirdly didn't seem to mention the fact that it was literally their 20th anniversary, but it's a nice piece of trivia, no?

Anyway I will now rank the items we received as part of Bubby's Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Stuffing
  2. Biscuit and jam
  3. Potatoes and gravy
  4. Sweet potatoes
  5. Ham
  6. Green bean casserole
  7. Deviled eggs
  8. Cranberry sauce
  9. Pickled veggies
  10. Ambrosia salad
  11. Pumpkin pie
  12. Salad
  13. Turkey dark meat
  14. Roasted vegetables
  15. Apple pie
  16. Turkey white meat
  17. Pecan pie

The pecan pie had orange zest in it. Or something. It was a real mess. And that turkey, yikes. Still! I'd call it a success! Thanks Bubby!

11.14.2020 - by Steve
Original American ChickenQueens
Grilled chicken, rice, veggies

There's still hope for this country, and this chicken is proof.

11.13.2020 - by Steve
Its-ItSan Francisco
Ice cream sandwiches

I can think of few other occasions where the payoff of eating a hallowed regional foodstuff so thoroughly met the heightened expectations I obtained in the months and years prior to eating said foodstuff. It's-It is it.

Erin has been entering a monthly (?) sweepstakes on Instagram for something like four years now, attempting to win a package of It's-It ice cream sandwiches, overnighted from from San Francisco (you drove and did you flew?). Well in a great sign for my chances with the Hamilton lottery (fingers crossed!), she finally received notice that she'd won! And a few days later, a dry-ice packed styrofoam container appeared at our door, packed with a dozen It's-Its of various flavors.

Reader, these ice cream sandwiches are heavenly.

I don't want to waste too much text trying to describe them, because there's not that much to describe. And what description I could give will likely be met with something like, "Okay, so what?". Because all we have here is a puck of ice cream, squeezed between two (this is essential) oatmeal cookies, and dipped (this is essential too) in chocolate. That's it. But it all works gloriously. However they're making their ice cream, however they're making their oatmeal cookies, whatever chemistry of melted chocolate they've perfected, whatever temperature they freeze these things at, there's some combination of magic in here.

That's it.

11.13.2020 - by Steve
Emoji BurgerQueens

The nearest burger place to my new apartment is called Emoji Burger. Their burgers are named after emojis. And as you can see, they brand the 😜 guy right there into the top of the bun. It would be embarrassing if it wasn't so delicious.

It doesn't beat Andrew's Luncheonette, which was probably my previous favorite burger in town, but it was startlingly close.