01.21.2019
Foxwarren
Foxwarren

At the beginning of 2018, I discovered this record The Party by a Canadian singer songwriter named Andy Shauff. It's a great album of great songs, and it was one of my favorite albums of the year. Except I couldn't put it on my Best of 2018 list because it came out in 2016. Oops. But then, late in December, like a traveling magi visiting my midnight stable with the region's finest frankincense, Andy Shauff's band Foxwarren releases their new album. And while it's not quite as great as The Party, it's still damn good, and more or less sounds like a Shauff album. See Best Of list below.

12.31.2018
Steve's Favorite Music of 2018
A List

Oh crap it's New Years Eve and I haven't posted my year end lists yet oh my god oh my god I better hurry up! Here's the deal for this year: I'm gonna go ahead and throw EPs and singles and compilations on the list. Because there are 4 specifically that really did it for me this year, and I'm just going to treat them all like equals. It's (almost) 2019, and it's a new landscape for media! Anything goes! Content! Here's my list:

1. Ryley Walker - The Lilywhite Sessions*
2. Hailu Mergia - Lala Belu
3. Chastity - Death Lust
4. Ought - Room Inside the World
5. Sidney Gish - No Dogs Allowed
6/7. Jeff Rosenstock - POST**
6/7. Barely March - Marely Barch**
8. Khadja Bonet - Childqueen
9. American Pleasure Club - A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This
10. Fluisteraars - De Oord
11. The Mountain Goats - Hex of Infinite Binding
12. Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive
13. Warthog - Warthog
14. Mick Jenkins - Pieces of a Man
15. Prince - Piano and a Microphone 1983
16. Self Defense Family - Self Defense Family
17. Natalie Prass - The Future and the Past
18. Sandro Perri - In Another Life
19. Foxwarren - Foxwarren
20. The Internet - Hive Mind

*I can't fuckin believe it either
** These are tied, because they're so spiritually similar that it seems silly to separate them. Barely March basically got his break by covering a Jeff Rosenstock song for a compilation.

12.30.2018
Fluisteraars
De Oord

This is one of those beautiful rare black metal releases that makes me want to open up a window like the reformed Mr. Scrooge on Christmas Day and shout, "You there, boy, tell me, why can't all black metal be this good??". And the boy will look up and answer, "Why, because it's Danish sir!" Well, I don't know if the Danish part has anything to do with it other than making their band name nearly unpronouncable, but the point is that Fluisteraars have unlocked some sort of black metal composition holy writ, and every one of the 15 minutes of this song (yes it's just one song, but it may as well be a full album. A symphony, even) is perfect. I've dug into some older work of theirs, and while it's quite good, I feel like De Oord is where they've really figured it out. So kind of like VRTRA from a couple years ago, I'm going to be on the edge of my seat waiting for these Danes to release a new full length as soon as possible.

12.30.2018
Mitski
Be The Cowboy

Everyone's real into this Mitski album but I'm kinda not. I think it sounds like St. Vincent but not as good.

12.13.2018
Blake Mills
Look

Blake Mills released a beautifully unique alt country (?) album back in 2014 that I can no longer listen to because it's just one of those albums. Then I guess he just started producing for other artists ($), which is remarkable in 2018 because he's what you might call a guitar guy and it's 2018. But now he's finally returned! With an all-synth instrumental EP? Okay. It's very chill, which, by the way, in 2019 I'm hoping chill will no longer be an adjective. Or verb. I also hope Blake Mills puts out some more music. Because, look, Look is good and chill (shit!), but this guy has to have more up his sleeve.

12.08.2018
Ryley Walker
The Lilywhite Sessions

My relationship with Dave Matthews and his band is a complicated one which I won't get into here. Well actually, it's not that complicated and I will get into it here: I don't really like Dave Matthews Band, but sometimes they do something that I like. There. So. Ryley Walker, whom I have already written about on this blog during this calendar year, apparently grew up a huge Dave Matthews fan, and even though he's now an infamously scuzzy Chicago post-Tortoise-rock figurehead, he has not let go of his love. So after releasing one fantastic album this year (Deafman Glance, as seen on my top ten albums of the year list, I'm sure), he decided to get some of his cuzzy Chicago post-Tortoise-rock friends together and record a full album cover of a Dave Matthews Band album. And it's shockingly good. Maybe even better than Deafman Glance, which I've already pointed out as being in my top ten this year. It's a passionately earnest album; although I don't know the original DMB version of The Lilywhite Sessions, it's clear that Walker isn't trying to deconstruct or reinterpret or otherwise ironically play these songs. Yes, he's doing it in his own voice, and changing arrangements here or there, but it's fully from the heart, lovingly performed, and fully musical. Almost makes me want to dig in to the original Dave version lol jk yeah right.

11.08.2018
Warthog
Warthog

I hate when people say things "rip," but this album rips.

10.02.2018
Low
Double Negative

This new Low album is indeed the best Low album in a long time, but also isn't the paradigm shifting masterpiece that some people are making out to be. It's a real cool headfuck and a good listen while out for a walk late on a cool autumn night though.

09.16.2018
George Clanton
Slide

I got this album by this "George Clanton" kid, who does "vaporwave"—which I can hardly stand to type without using scare quotes—and it's so dreamy and odd nebulous and that I forgot that I even bought it until I just saw it in my iTunes. This has happened every other day for the last two weeks. I mean "dreamy and odd and nebulous" in the best way though. I honestly don't exactly know what "vaporwave" usually sounds like, although I sort of kind of have the general idea of it, but this isn't exactly that. This is something else, some kind of millennial fantasy of XTC with trip hop breakbeats and shoegazey drones, and a bit of modern day bedroom r&b. Actually it plays well with this year's American Music Club's A Whole Fucking Lifetime Of This, the idea of a young 20-something taking a bunch of "old" 90s touch points and throw them seemingly blindly into a home recording blender and pouring out a mix that is, my god, something interesting and listenable. Also it makes me wonder if Jack Drag is ever going to have a renaissance.

08.22.2018
Trust Fund
Bringing the backline

Apparently this is going to be Trust Fund's last album, which is a bummer because I feel like Trust Fund still has unexplored greatness in them. That's unfair actually; their Seems Unfair album is truly great. Really everything they've done is some shade of great, even if this one is a little paler than the others. But I still don't want them to stop. We'll see.

08.22.2018
The Internet
Hive Mind

I'm gonna make this statement, but I'm not gonna be too passionate about it: The Internet's "La Di Da" is my Summer Jam of 2018. Except I still can't figure out where the beat actually lands; it's as if they took the ProTools file and shifted every track over by a half beat. Still a cool song though. Steve Lacy gets it.

07.25.2018
Melody's Echo Chamber
Bon Voyage

This album is basically Dungen and Tame Impala jamming while a French girl coo's some vocals over it. Your mileage may vary. My mileage, however, will very.

07.24.2018
Deafheaven
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

I'm still not sure what to make of Deafheaven. When they do metal they're great, doing shit that no other black or death or whatever metal band has the guts to do. Major chords, earworm melodies, true subgenre agnosticism, flipping between blastbeat noise and cool thrash riffs, and the occasional bit of glam rock boogie. Unlike so much of the metal world, they follow their muse. But then, more often than not, the muse takes them right into post-rock. When Deafheaven does post-rock, it's rote, tedious, Explosions In The Sky knocking bullshit. It's boring. That's part of why their first album Sunbather didn't excite me as much as it did for everyone else in the world. But then New Bermuda cut out a lot of that and focused more on riffs and momentum, and they felt like a whole new band. So it bums me out that so much of this new one is filled with this meandering post-rock filler, because when they turn up the volume and get down to business, it's as incredible as advertised.

07.20.2018
Chastity
Death Lust

Hey, who wants some rock music?? Here's this band Chastity I just starting digging into, and they do pretty sweet sounding sort of Hum/Deftones/Failure/Pumpkins inspired huge rock that was pretty uncool for a while but now is halfway coming back into vogue with some more random Bandcampy corners of 20-something guitar kids (see also: Bilge Rat, Nothing, Cloakroom). I like it a lot. Plus tracks 5 and 6 would be legit hit singles if hit loud rock singles were still a thing.

07.20.2018
Imperial Triumphant
Vile Luxury

I've never heard any metal band like Imperial Triumphant, and that's such a rare thing to happen these days that I want to go out and tell everyone I know how fucking crazy this album is and that they should listen to it. Except it's so fucking crazy that nobody I know would even know where to begin to make sense of it, and they'd probably be mad at me. But dudes! This shit is like, free jazz black metal! Or is it blackened death jazz? I don't know what it is. But it's absolutely colossal and I wish more metal bands would have the guts (Gorguts?) these guys have to just try something.

01.21.2019 - by Steve
Hometown BarbecueBrooklyn
Barbecue pulled pork

Hometown Barbecue, way out in Red Hook, is supposedly one of the best barbecue joints in New York. Eater even had it on its list of 37(ish) "essential" NY restaurants. So it's kind of a bummer that we went there on a whim—a very fast whim before grocery shopping right next door on some random Wednesday night—rather than really planning out and luxuriating in its barbecueness. What did I get? I got the pulled pork and baked beans. How was it? It was quite good, although maybe a little too wet, with all the cole slaw slopped on the top. And the beans had been seemingly been sitting in the bottom of their pot for too long, and just had that "thrice cooked" kind of taste. I couldn've lived without the beans. But, yeah, the sandwich was good from what I remember of it. But also nothing terribly remarkable. Really what it reminded me of was Green Street Meats in Chicago. Almost like the owners visited Green Street during the planning stages and said, "This is the barbecue place we want to be!" Right down to the service style and christmas-lights-in-old-warehouse decor. So for further detail, scroll back to, say, 2011, and read my Green Street Meats write-up. I'm sure it'll apply here.

01.21.2019 - by Steve
JojuQueens
Banh mi

The difference between NYC and Minneapolis (well, St. Paul) Vietnamese places is pretty noticeable. The Twin Cities are known as a pretty good area for Vietnamese food, and that's true, but that seems to come mostly in the form of mom-n-pop, hole in the wall joints. The exceptions are few—Ngon Bistro is maybe the only fine-dining Vietnamese spot, and only in the last couple years are places like Lu's trying fast-casual-ify the pho space. (I can't believe I just typed that). But all in all, Twin Cities Vietnamese feels very much like an immigrant group simply wanting to feed themselves and have a taste of home, and if curious Minnesotans want to get some lemongrass chicken, great.

In New York, meanwhile, Vietnamese feels much more like a trend. The restaurants are younger, cooler, expensiver. I've seen very few 'hole in the wall' banh mi joints, relative to NY's uber density of course, compared to MSP. And the cheaper, counter service ones are often more like the subject of this food post, Joju. Located in a very heavily Asian neighborhood in Queens (and I mean "Asian" non-accidentally; we're talking Korean restaurants next to Thai grocery stores next to specifically Taiwanese restaurants. American melting pot, etc. etc.), Joju is what one might call "cool". But not in a Williamsburg pink neon sense, more in an "anime sandwich mascots and K-pop record cover" sense. It also, like many of these places, touts itself almost as much as a bubble tea shop than it does a restaurant. Joju doesn't even have Coke!

But what they do have is delicious banh mi. We ordered two kinds, caramel pork and beef bulgogi. Oh, that's another thing—there seems to be some very blurred lines at NY banh mi shops in terms of which nation's cuisine is represented on this ostensibly Vietnamese sandwich. You're just as likely to see Korean bulgogi or Thai basil pork on the menu as the standard Vietnamese chicken or pork with pate. Which is fine by me. Anyway, the sandwiches were delicious. Maybe a little heavy on carrot, and the actual construction of the veggies and meat made for a slightly awkward eating experience, but they tasted great. They also represented one more difference that seems to separate NY banh mi from MSP banh mi: the bun was refreshingly soft. So many hole in the wall banh mi I'm used to seem to lean towards using chewy, crispy baguettes. But these NY versions are soft, and much easier to bite into. A much more satisfying experience in my opinion, and one that comes in to play with a lot of New York dough-based food, from pizza dough to bagels, simply to bread you're served at restaurants or find at bakeries. Whether it's the water or the high turnover or simply the quality of local bakeries, bread truly is better here than in the rest of the country. Crazy as it sounds.

So anyway, Joju. It's good. It's pretty deep into parts of Queens you might never go to, so maybe don't worry too much about it. There's probably others like it.

01.20.2019 - by Steve
Schnipper'sManhattan
Cheeseburger

Manhattan's got a lot of chain restaurants that aren't really chains yet, but are clearly trying to use the cachet that comes with simply being in Manhattan (usually Midtown) as a springboard to becoming a chain restaurant. The examples are so plentiful that I can barely even think of one right now. They're ubiquitous and almost entirely forgettable—forged so carefully by marketers and designers and focus groupers to create fast casual fried chicken sandwiches and vaguely ethnic salad bowls that appeal with a laser focus to newly moneyed 20 and 30 somethings, that they become invisible in their omnipresence. Hell, I posted about a fried chicken place just a month or two ago, my very first living-in-NY food post, and I don't even remember what it was called.

Anyway, Schnipper's isn't exactly that. Sorry, I don't know why I started with that whole paragraph rant. But it's at least something like it. It's a chain restaurant that exists solely within the island of Manhattan, as desperate as it seems to stretch beyond. Basically it's a fast-casual diner. We're talking classic, Mickey's-level burgers and fries and shakes, even served on those plain white diner plates. I had a cheeseburger there, and it was good. Why are there so many Schnipper's'es? I don't know. Why is it so popular? Is it?

12.31.2018 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2018Brooklyn
A List

Holy cow this is a jet-setting, internacional version of a year end food list! Minneapolis! St. Paul! And other cities! Anyway here's the list:

1. Hai Hai (Minneapolis) - Balinese chicken
2. Berber and Q (London) - Lamb shawarma
3. Nandos (Manchester) - Piri Piri Chicken
4. Paesano’s (Philadelphia) - Roast pork sandwich
5. Thai Cafe (St. Paul) - Sour pork ribs
6. Porchetteria (Minneapolis) - Porchetta
7. Werkstatt (Brooklyn) - Wienerschnitzel
8. The Naughty Greek (St. Paul) - Lamb
9. MT Noodles (Brooklyn Park) - Banh mi
10. Camping (North shore) - Grilled bbq chicken
11. Crepe and Spoon (Minneapolis) - Peanut butter and jelly vegan ice cream
12. Mission Chinese (Manhattan) - Kung pao pastrami
13. Sorriso’s (Queens) - Meatball sandwich
14. Tavial (St. Paul) - Al pastor tacos
15. Kingfisher (Manchester) - Fish and chips

12.31.2018 - by Steve
Malaysian JerkyManhattan
Malaysian Jerky

There's this tiny little shop in Chinatown that sells Malaysian jerky. I don't think they have a name, and they don't sell anything else. But I promise you, if you go to the Malaysian jerky shop and buy some Malaysian jerky, you will not be disappointed.

12.31.2018 - by Steve
WerkstattBrooklyn
Wienerschnitzel

I live within walking distance 4 halal Chinese restaurants, 3 Chinese-owned taco shops, 2 Uzbek restaurants, 5 Bangladeshi sweets shops, 3 kosher sushi bars, at least 1 Fiipino barbeque, and 1 very specifically Buffalo themed burger joint. And yet somehow the most surprising ethnic food I've found here in this beautiful melting pot of Kensington Brooklyn is an Austrian bar called Werkstatt. It's kind of like when you see Ingbertsen's Swedish store in the middle of Lake Street; something as seemingly dull and master-racey as that in the middle of all these seemingly endless spicy global options makes it stand out in a way that it might not otherwise. More exciting still is that Werkstatt is delicious! We split a plate of wienerschnitzel (and spaetzle, of course), and some paprika chicken, as well as a big fat fresh pretzel, and honestly I think it was my favorite meal in New York so far. Nothing was super unique or foodie about any of it, but it was just perfectly prepared and balanced, and whatever I was hoping for that night, they delivered. Plus the space is a pretty chill neighborhood bar, no hip European irony, no obnoxious minimalist modern touches. Just a place to chill and eat some fried pork and pickled starch.

12.13.2018 - by Steve
Church Avenue Deli CorpBrooklyn
Bacon egg and cheese on a roll

There are two things you need to do to officially become a Real New Yorker. One, you have to carry around a New Yorker canvas tote bag. You know the one. Second, you have to eat a bacon egg and cheese sandwich from a local bodega. This second one, I finally did, at my local unnamed generic Deli & Grocery. (Their official legal name is Church Avenue Deli Corp, which is what it says in small letters in their window, so for the sake of keeping this music and food blog impeccably organized on the back end, that's what I'm calling it). It cost me $3 (exactly) and tasted like bacon egg and cheese on a roll (exactly). That's all I have to say about it.

12.13.2018 - by Steve
LakruanaStaten Island
Sri Lankan buffet

The entirety of the Twin Cities contains one Sri Lankan restaurant. And I say "Twin Cities" because it's not even in Minneapolis or St. Paul, it's down in a strip mall in the boonies of Rosemount. Rosemount! In fact I think I've reviewed it on this very site. It's good. But I can't really compare it to other Sri Lankan restaurants because, like you may have read in the first sentence of this very paragraph, there are no other Sri Lankan restaurants in Minnesota to compare it to.

Meanwhile, just across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in cruddy old Staten Island—the dumbest borough—there are seven Sri Lankan restaurants to enjoy! That isn't to say that there are exponentially more in the rest of New York; Staten Island is actually home to a disproportionate percentage of the city's Sri Lankan population, therefore restaurants. And not just restaurants, but buffets! The most beloved of them—its presence whispered like fables amongst the intrepid food aesthetes of Brooklyn and Manhattan, rumors of spices and pastes unrivaled yet uneaten because how the fuck am I supposed to even get to Staten Island?—is Lakruana. An almost entirely inconspicuous place on the outside, just a Asian restaurant-y looking front door in the midst of electric supply stores and loose trash and who even knows what else, on the inside Lakruana is a fucking wonderland. Supposedly they've imported nearly everything in this place from Sri Lanka, from wire and rope chairs to wooden roof tiles, to cast iron pots with the buffet is actually served out of. I'd say the effect is "crazy" if that wasn't culturally xenophobic of me, so maybe I'll stick with "sensorially bounteous." Or rather, "It's a hoot." The food itself was quite good, because what little Sri Lankan food I've had is always quite good, and far richer and more varied than a lot of straight Indian food, but thinking back on it I don't really remember the details. But man was it a good trip to a Sunday buffet. I'd highly recommend checking it out if you have any idea how to get to Staten Island.

12.08.2018 - by Steve
Yummy TacoBrooklyn
Tacos

Oh man, I've been living in Brooklyn (did I mention I'm living in Brooklyn?) for over a month now and I realized I've only updated Music and Food once. I'm a busy man, okay! And also, there's just too much. I couldn't really cook for the first couple weeks, so I ate way too many meals out at way too many places, and I don't even want to start trying to M&F all of them. Which isn't to say this is some wonderland of the best food you've ever eaten on every block. In reality, it's just a place with some restaurants like anywhere else. There just happens to be so many people everywhere that there are so many restaurants and delis and cafes to feed them all. But what this really means is that there's mediocrity everywhere. Which I mean lovingly. Just regular weird "how does this place stay open?" food everywhere you look. Case in point: Yummy Taco. This is a taco joint, obviously, but one that is fully owned and operated by Chinese people, in the space which very obviously used to be a Chinese restaurant. As a relief from New York's many "real" Mexican places—which are surprisingly not very good, and deserving of an entire essay on their own—this is very much American Mexican. "Mom tacos," as a friend once called them. Flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce. I kinda love it. And for as weird as Yummy Taco is, weirder still: it's a chain. There's at least 4 other locations of this Chinese owned American Mexican restaurant. New York is weird.

11.08.2018 - by Steve
Blue Ribbon Fried ChickenManhattan
Fried chicken sandwich

Hey! Look! Music & Food is officially 10 years old! That's fucking weird, right?

I'd recommend you don't go back into the archives and find my first official post on here. It's an embarrassing misreading of Randy Newman's "Sail Away." But more than that, it's a hopeful and optimistic misreading of the state of America in 2008. I'd been working on building this new music and food blog as an outlet to practice some nascent coding skills, and it just so happened that the site was ready to launch just a couple days after the beautiful and magic election night, when we all felt great and the future was wide open. But now, exactly 10 years later, that beauty and magic has been gutted by people who hate beauty and magic. But also there's no such thing as magic.

And also, holy shit, I live in New York now?? And this is my first official New York food post! And it's Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, which I hit up while running an errand in the East Village (because I now run errands in the East Village). It looks delicious, and is stocked with a number of great looking hot sauces and honeys. But just like the magic of November 2008, sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Mac and cheese was good though.

10.02.2018 - by Steve
Skyline ChiliAkron
Skyline chili

I finally did it. I ate Skyline Chili. And it's exactly as good as I imaged it might be.

09.04.2018 - by Steve
Potter'sDinkytown Minneapolis
Sausage roll

I think I've had a Potter's pasty from their food truck before, but I honestly can't say I remember much about it. But this weekend I finally got to their brick and mortar store (which is only a brick and mortar store in that they sell some food out of a window connected to their commissary kitchen in the basement of a building connected to the back side of a convenience store), and was duly impressed by their sausage roll. See, I'm a bit of an expert on sausage rolls; I went to England one time. So. Anyhow, these aren't quite as good as the rolls at Greggs (um if you've ever been to England like me you'll know what I mean, mate), and they don't serve them with HP Sauce (God save the Queen), but rather with a sort of tangy apple reduction, which I don't think quite worked with what was more of an Italian-style sausage than the traditional English breakfast sausage that you'd expect from a roll. But despite that, I fully enjoyed the roll, and have to say there's something very refreshing about a place in Minneapolis that just sells out of a basement window. It's the sort of secret-handshake "in the know" place that doesn't usually exist around here.