07.16.2018
Gang Gang Dance
Kazuashita

Gang Gang Dance is the type of group that I always feel has the potential to do something truly transcendent. Despite not really being "my kind of thing," their last album Eye Contact really blew me away, and had a few moments on it where I just wanted to stand up and find anyone around me to yell "are you hearing this‽" at. Other moments of it, meanwhile, were just kinda good. So then here, after like 5 years, we have Kazuashita, which is better than just kinda good, but at the same time doesn't seem to have any of the "are you hearing this‽" moments in it that I wish it had. It's just mostly very chill, and borderline new-age. So yes, it's a very pleasant listen all the way through, with one almost transcendent moment, although it's a bit of a cheat because it comes from a spoken word vocal sample layed over the music rather than the music itself ("buffalo".) But hey. It's a nice listen and I like it.

07.11.2018
Self Defense Family
Have You Considered Punk Music

So this is a band called Self Defense Family, and the album is called Have You Considered Punk Music, and it's one the most earnest collections of musical recordings I've ever heard. It's good and you should listen to it.

07.09.2018
Kamasi Washington
Heaven and Earth

I'll be honest—I haven't actually listened to Heaven and Earth in full yet. I'm not even sure how that's supposed to be done; every song on it is the biggest, fullest, most epic jazz odyssey ever recorded, and there's two discs worth of it! It's like watching 2001 front to back and then turning on Andrei Rublev without even getting up from the couch.

That's a terrible comparison and I'm going to edit it out later. But I'm just trying to get this music blog done so I can go to bed, so let's keep moving, yes? So: everything that Kamasi Washington has recorded so far is astounding, and Heaven and Earth is too. Just the most correct shit, over and over again, one track after another. Choirs, strings, dueling drum sets, vintage synthesizers, noise prog guitar solos, spoken poetry, wah pedals, talk boxes. Everything is on this album. You're probably on this album. Bet you didn't know it. The craziest thing about all of it is that it all makes sense.

07.09.2018
Natalie Prass
The Future and the Past

I didn't like the first Natalie Prass album all that much at first. But then I liked it a little more. And then I liked it a lot more. And now it's one of my favorites of the last few years.

I don't like this new Natalie Prass album all that much.

06.19.2018
Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer

It's interesting how little I have to say about this album, in relation to how much I like it. I mean, not that interesting. But like, know what I mean? It's a completely solid album from front to back, and Father John Misty is a songwriter par excellence, truly and not even ironically the Randy Newman of our generation; which isn't to say that he sounds like Randy Newman or that you'd ever confuse the work of the two, but he's a too smart for his own good asshole, who treats the art of songwriting itself like a test that he has to ace, blindfolded and with his left hand, a tight rope slung in between towers with no net that he's going to walk across even though nobody asked him to. But the motherfucker nails it, is the thing, every time, even if tight rope walking isn't that big with the kids these days.

06.19.2018
Ryley Walker
Deafman's Glance

I liked this Ryley Walker album a lot, but then it struck me just how much it sounds like Jim O'Rourke. Now I still like it a lot.

05.26.2018
Courtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel

I've been as much of a Courtney Barnett advocate as anybody in the last few years, proclaiming to anyone who will listen how she is One Of The Great Music Authors of our generation, a rare Genuine Voice in a world full of poseurs and trend hoppers. What I'm saying is that's she's the fuckin best. Listen to "Avant Gardener"! Listen to it! Do you hear it??

So anyway, she just released her third album, which very learned people will tell you is um actually he second album, since her first album is just a collection of 3 EPs, even though that's nonsense and this is her third album whether you like it or not. It's a bit of a departure, in that it's all a bit darker, slower, seemingly basking in ennui rather than writing circles around it. It's good, I like it. It just seems like she's going through some stuff, man, you know? Except there's this one part on "Need A Little Time," in the chorus, where she switches from "Me...eeee...eeee.eeee" to "You...ooooo...ooo," and the chord changes and the guitars crunch a little more, and it's glorious. Listen to it! Do you hear it??

05.24.2018
Eleanor Friedberger
Rebound

Good tunes.

05.22.2018
Beach House
7

This new Beach House album has really great cover art. It's printed on a shiny, metallic, somewhat opalescent paper that cuts through the black and white pop art, and is very psychedelic and cool and was probably very expensive for Sub Pop to manufacture. This is also the review of the Beach House album. 7/10.

05.02.2018
Yazan
Hahaha

Weirdo psych blues rock that sounds kinda like Retribution Gospel Choir is Retribution Gospel Choir was a lot funner and a little goofy. To be honest I bought this on a whim, and I keep forgetting about it.

04.16.2018
R.E.M.
Monster

I've been listening to "What's The Frequency Kenneth" endlessly in the last few days. It's a strange choice, I know, but the song has completely hooked itself into me. The proximate blame goes to Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott's new podcast "R U Talking R.E.M. Re: Me?", where they talk about R.E.M. for an hour every week, even though they haven't even gotten to Monster yet, and really I don't find their analysis and discussion of the band all that interesting. It's just a fun goofy listen. But what it has done is made me revisit their records with fresher ears, and ultimately that's what's making me think I've grossly underestimated these guys my whole life. They're really fascinating once you lay it all out, almost by being so un fascinating. There are no major peaks and valleys to their career; there's no drama, no grand failed experiments, no major lineup changes. And yet since 1983, these dudes have released so many undeniable hit songs, entirely in their own voice, making (practically) no concessions to fashion or popularity. Every single album (at least until the 21st century, where you can forgive them for being 20 years into their career) has at least one song on it, usually 2 or 3 and sometimes 4, which would be any other band's creative pinnacle, most of which have since entered whatever we can describe as the modern rock/pop canon. It's remarkable.

Even Monster, which at the time perhaps got some criticism for selling out to some grungy, alt-rock zeitgeist, has mostly aged beautifully, and contains at least 2 all time greats. One of which, to take us back to the lede, is "What's The Frequency Kenneth", which, again, was kinda made fun of at the time for being alt rock nonsense. But listen to it! It's great! It's an undeniable jam. And even though they might've distorted the guitar a little more than previous albums, it is anything but a grunge cash in. It's pure and beautiful and perfect. And lucky for all of us, you can find dozens of copies Monster for $2 or less at every used record store and thrift shop in the country.

04.15.2018
Hop Along
Bark Your Head Off

I wish this rocked more.

04.04.2018
Daphne & Celeste
Daphne & Celeste Save The World

Okay, the title up there says "Daphne & Celeste Save The World," which is technically true, albeit probably meaningless to anyone reading this right now. But in reality, this is really a Max Tundra album, his first in a decade. Whu-whu-whaaat? Let me explain, because it's bizarre!

Backstory #1 is that Daphne & Celeste were a thoroughly disposable teen pop duo in England back in 2000, who had one or two earworm bubblegum pop hits that apparently had no traction in the US, but drove the Brits completely crazy. Like "Barbie Girl" and "Crazy Frog" levels of crazy. There's a famous story about them playing at some festival and basically having shit thrown at them from the crowd to get off the stage. Backstory #2, is that Max Tundra is this insane genius electronic experimentalist with a knack for undeniable pop melodicism and a cheeky sense of humor, who spends years and years completely out of the public eye, seemingly too clever for his own well being, crafting his music like one of those guys who carves photorealistic landscapes on thousands of grains of rice. It's been 10 years since the last Max Tundra album, Parallax Error Beheads You, and I basically assumed he was dead.

But what happened is he was actually writing and recording his new album. Except instead of a Max Tundra album, it's a Daphne & Celeste album??? Listening to this record, there is no confusion about who's music this is. This is Max Tundra through and through, from the batshit cut up production, to the melodic signatures, to the fact that there is at least one love song to a synthesizer. No, not recorded with a synthesizer, but about a synthesizer. Did I mention Max Tundra is the best? Anyway, while his own voice is nowhere to be heard, Daphne & Celeste do just fine taking his place, and give the whole album a surreal feel of a bubblegum pop album completely out of time, frankensteined together almost as a joke, but way too comprehensive and smart to actually be a joke. I don't know how this project came together, how Tundra convinced Daphne & Celeste to jump off a cliff with him, but holy hell is it weird and fascinating and a complete joy.

04.03.2018
Mount Eerie
Now Only

The last Mount Eerie album was a towering masterpiece of grief and honesty and poetry, born out real life death and mourning, completely uncritiqueable and undeniably perfect. Now Only feels like a lesser, lighter follow up to that one, even though it is also all of those things. But it couldn't really be anything else, and that's okay. RIYL: crying.

04.02.2018
4th Curtis
I Won the Pageant

Holy cow, it's a local band that's actually good and actually excites me! 4th Curtis—not to be confused with Cowboy Curtis—plays totally solid 90's alt-rock-inspired indie pop on Girlpool-Trust Fund-Frankie Cosmos spectrum. I saw them performing randomly at halftime of a roller derby event, expected absolutely nothing of them, and after just a couple songs was totally sold. They're good! Good songs! Good music! Cool!

07.19.2018 - by Steve
Sorriso'sQueens
Meatball sandwich, sopressata sandwich

This is the most New York place in New York. I actually heard the guy behind the counter say "gabagool." And they make some damn fine sandwiches.

07.19.2018 - by Steve
JollibeeQueens
Fried chicken, spaghetti, cheeseburger

New York City! Perhaps the greatest culinary destination in the world! It's got everything! Pizza pie! A spicy a meat a ballsa! Bagels! Enough Michelin stars to light up the night sky! Invitation-only chef dinners, $500 a plate steakhouses, experimental ice cream speakeasies, authentic Puerto Rican food served by grandmas with Weber grills on the sidewalk. You can't throw a stick in New York without it hitting the best restaurant you've ever eaten at. Or it'll hit Jollibee.

I've been fascinated by Jollibee for nearly 10 years now. I have a gross fascination in general with regional chains; whenever I go on a road trip, I generally try to find some sort of fast food restaurant that is native to the place I'm in. Jollibee is sort of an extreme version of that. There are hundreds of Jollibee locations in the Philippines and south Asia, sort of a Filipino McDonalds. But when I heard that there was one single location in New York, right in the heart of Queens, it's been near the top of my list of NYC restaurant destinations. Near the top. So, yeah, it's taken me a while to get there. Until now!

And as is often the case with international interpretations of American cuisine, it's just a little off. The main draw here is fried chicken. Or as they call it, "Chickenjoy." Fine. And actually kinda spicy and decent. But the next big item is spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti. Although this is a bit of a regional take on the dish, with a sweeter and more bell-pepper-infused sauce than our traditional marinara. It almost tastes like ketchup with some spices. I know. Lastly, of course, are burgers. Their cheeseburger is actually nearly hidden on the menu, so it must not be a best seller. But interestingly, it was the best thing I had! It obviously wasn't a great burger, but it was very enjoyable! I'd honestly take it over a standard McDonalds burger if you were to make me choose. Oddly, it reminded me of when I was a kid and refused to eat Chinese food, and my parents would order me a cheeseburger at the Chinese restaurant. I don't know if it's the type of oil or what, but there's a very particular flavor to the char on the burger that I can't quite describe.

Anyway, Jollibee is weird. Real weird. I can't say you should go there, but if you are in New York for the 5th or 6th time and feel like treating yourself to something that's maybe the most New York of all.

07.09.2018 - by Steve
Jezabel'sPhiladelphia
Empanadas

Here's a fun and random one! Just a couple blocks from where we were staying in Philadelphia was a tiny little Argentinian cafe called Jezabel's. "Fun?", you ask? I guess a small Argentinian cafe in a historic residential Philadelphia neighborhood could be fun on its own, but in this case, we happened to hit up Jezabel's right while Argentina was playing France in the World Cup! We were just stopping in quick to get some small bites before leaving for the bus station, but found this tiny little place crowded with people in blue and white Argentina jerseys watching the game on a huge flatscreen TV just sitting up on the bar. This place is really like the size of a small coffee shop, so even a dozen revelers made it feel super packed. And fun. So we stayed a bit and ate some empanadas. Which, for real, were some of the best empanadas I've ever eaten! I had two kinds: beef, and ham & cheese. The beef was fairly standard, but wonderfully flavorful, and the dough was flaky and tender and perfect, not stale or greasy like you could find at some other shops. Meanwhile, the ham and cheese—for which I kept my expectations low—was even better. I don't know why I thought it was just going to be cruddy cheddar cheese and off-the-shelf ham, but this thing had layers of flavor! I couldn't tell you what kind of cheese, or what else might've been in it, but damn, it was good. And I don't think I can get anything like it in this town.

Then Argentina gave up a couple goals and everyone was bummed.

07.09.2018 - by Steve
Paesano's Philadelphia
Roast pork sandwich

Regular readers of this site (lol) might remember last year's trip to Philadelphia, where of course I had to get a cheesesteak from Pat's, or Geno's, or wherever else who cares it was very mediocre. Meanwhile, True Food Knowers will tell you that the Real Philadelphia Foodstuff is actually the roast pork sandwich. Which is: roast pork (either sliced, pulled, or chopped), sharp provolone cheese, and Italian marinated broccoli rabe, on a hoagie bun. That broccoli rabe is key, sort of like the pickle on a Chicago dog, or giardiniera on an Italian beef. I've never seen that on any sandwich in the midwest, or anywhere else, really. (Although, spoiler alert, I think you can find it in some of the more legit Italian delis in New York too).

So on my latest trip to the east coast, my first stop in Philly was at Paesano's, one of the higher-recommended joints for a roast pork. It seems that Paesano's used to be a bit of a hole-in-the-wall freestanding mom-n-pop shop, but it's now sadly and sterilely seated on the first floor of a new-construction apartment development. Lame, but forgivable. But it's still a small little shop, with just a grill behind the counter, a chalkboard menu up top, and one guy with an incredible Philly accent running the place. I'd never actually heard one in person before. It was eye opening.

I'll say this: every sandwich on their menu looked amazing. I wanted all of them. They even had porchetta! But I had to go with the standard roast pork, since, you know, that's what I was there for. I ordered it, was told to pay when I was finished, grabbed a can of Coke from the fridge, sat down at a table, waited for the sandwich, received the sandwich, took a bite of the sandwich, and died from happiness.

Fuck the cheesesteak. The roast pork is the righteous truth.

07.09.2018 - by Steve
The LynhallUptown Minneapolis
Biscuits and gravy

Food Halls (aka Food Courts with a superiority complex) are becoming a thing. In London and Manchester, they are very much already a thing. I imagine in New York they are also a thing. And with the opening of the Lynhall, they are now a thing here. Sort of? Because I don't think the Lynhall is actually a food hall. A food hall, as far as I am aware, has multiple vendors selling different types of food all under the same roof with a communal seating area. The Lynhall seems to basically just be a counter-ordering restaurant; there's just one menu, just one register, seemingly just one kitchen. It's basically just a more expensive 'fast casual' restaurant!

But whatever. My biscuits and gravy (oh, I'm sorry, drop biscuits) were tasty. The whole place is a little annoying, and there was a weird interaction at the register where the cashier seemed insistent on recommending a new sushi restaurant to us, which made me think that Lynhall and the sushi place are run by the same people and the employees of each are required to buzz market the other, but that's a whole other thing.

06.19.2018 - by Steve
MT NoodlesBrooklyn Park
Banh mi

This is the best banh mi I've ever eaten, and it's in Brooklyn Park. The suburbs are going to save us all.

06.19.2018 - by Steve
TavialSt. Paul
Tacos al pastor

Hey, guess what?? I moved to St. Paul! Yessir, down to the Irish Catholic boonies of ol' Pig's Eye, more or less the middle of nowhere, just off West 7th. There's not a whole lot of food around here. Mostly just a shocking number of shockingly similar Irish bars—or at least bars with shamrocks in their logos. And Mucci's. But we'll get to Mucci's later. The one bright spot so far, however, is Tavial, a little taqueria located in what was probably a fast food joint of some sort. I was told that this place was good, but that recommendation left off about 4 o's, because Tavial is gooooood. Truly some of the best tacos I've had in this town, full stop. Even their rice is better than the usual spanish rice you get at these places. The al pastor was the clear winner, but I also had carnitas, which was just as crispy and flavorful as you'd hope carnitas to be. You know what? I'm going to add 4 more o's. Tavial is gooooooooood.

05.26.2018 - by Steve
Roman's CafeColumbia Heights
Chicken fried steak

Columbia Heights contains multitudes. Vegetarian Indian restaurants, hole in the wall taquerias, the best Korean restaurant in the city. Flameburger. And I'd assumed I'd explored it all, having driven and biked down nearly every major street in what isn't very large suburb. But then I discovered 40th Avenue. I don't know how I hadn't seen it before, but there's this little strip of businesses on 40th that feel almost like an abandoned downtown, or at least an attempt at neighborhood-building that stalled out at some point in the 70s. But on this stretch are 3 food establishments of note: Amos & Amos barbecue (you've never heard of it, have you?), Miller's Bar (you've never heard of it, have you?), and a greasy spoon breakfast nook called Roman's Cafe (consider it heard-of). Amos and Amos looks a little questionable, Miller's supposedly has great burgers—we tried going there twice now and both times it was packed—and I can now finally report back on Roman's. And the report is good. This is a legit, kinda gross but in a good way, hole in the wall. Everyone who works there appears to either be part of the same family or the same biker gang. Or at the very least, the same AA program. It lacks any of the charm of somewhere like Ideal Diner, or even Fat Nat's. It's mom 'n pop in the truest sense, the kind of place that often seems like it might be great, but in reality is often just a mess. But Roman's is the real deal. They're doing it. Hearty and well-prepared breakfast food for totally decent prices. My chicken fried steak might have been the best I've ever had. It was freshly battered, rather than some frozen bullshit, hot and crispy, and the steak inside wasn't chewy or mushy. Top notch. The hashbrowns weren't anything spectacular, but they were exactly what you'd want. Meanwhile, Erin ordered the Big Johnson, the very classy breakfast special that is apparently their claim to fame. I don't remember what all was in it, but it did come with a polish sausage. And let me say, have you ever had a polish sausage with pancakes? It's outstanding. Nicely char grilled too. Anyway, I can't imagine Roman's blowing up or selling out any time soon, since it's located in the Columbia Heights Mystery Zone, but hopefully they can at least stay in business long enough to get back there one or two more times.

05.24.2018 - by Steve
Crepe & SpoonNortheast Minneapolis
Peanut butter and jelly

You can probably imagine my shock and despair when I looked at the menu board at Crepe & Spoon, and saw that all but two flavors of their ice cream was vegan. Vegan ice cream!, I thought, This is bullshit! That's not even ice cream, there's no cream in it! Nowhere on the sign outside, or in the name of the place, does it say "Vegan" ice cream! False advertising! Shenanigans! Shenanigans!

Then you can also imagine my shock and bewilderment when I took a bite of this vegan ice cream product—peanut butter and jelly flavored—and it was creamy and sweet and gall dang delicious! The secret is that they use coconut milk instead of milk. Which adds up. So really any flavor you get—even peanut butter and jelly—is going to taste a little like coconut, which is weird for peanut butter and jelly. But whatever.

05.22.2018 - by Steve
Dusty'sNortheast Minneapolis
Dago

I've gone my whole adult life assuming Dusty's dago sandwiches had marinara on them. Am I wrong? 1 point deduction, but still a solid sandwich.

05.01.2018 - by Steve
Holy Land DeliNortheast Minneapolis
Philly cheesesteak

You might not believe me, but I'm going to say it anyway: the Holy Land has one of the best Philly cheesesteaks in the city. Not the best—that honor still goes to the former Galooney's, now Red's Savoy on Hennepin—but if you're dumb enough to make a trip to Holy Land and order something other than some delicious shawarma or falafel, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

05.01.2018 - by Steve
PezzoWhite Bear Lake
Chicago style deep dish pizza

Good Chicago style pizza is rare—and arguably non-existent—in the Twin Cities. Yeah, Giordano's has a couple locations now, but they were never the best to begin with, and Tommy Chicago's in Mendota Heights is a hidden gem, but nearly as much of a pain to drive to as Chicago itself. But the other night I tried a new spot up in White Bear Lake that had been mentioned in multiple 'Best Chicago Deep Dish' lists, Pezzo. Yes, White Bear Lake is nearly as far away as Mendota Heights (or more?), but it feels closer. Anyway, this place is almost hilarious in its suburban fanciness; brand new construction, a way-to-high ceiling, way too much space in between tables, curly-Q designs on the over-stuffed booths. It's trying to be the "nice" place that the northeast metro dwellers go for a dinner with the folks, or an awkward high school date. But yo: the deep dish was solid. Not quite Chicago-level legit, but a whole step above Giordano's and Frankie's (and to be honest, it's been so long since I've had Tommy Chicago's, I'll have to try it again to compare). But this was great Chicago pizza! Good proportion of crust to cheese, a unique tangy sauce, a ton of meat. The only thing they didn't quite nail in the way that the best deep dish places do, is the crispy end crust. You've got to get that shit caramelized. Pezzo's was crisp, yes, but it kind of fell apart upon cutting; it didn't have the buttery toothy chewiness that I wanted. But that's a lot to ask. I should also mention that everything else we ate—dinner salad and wedding soup and some appetizer meatballs—were all way better than we expected for such a place. So, hey, look, Pezzo in White Bear Lake! It's worth a trip maybe!

05.01.2018 - by Steve
Taco CatSouth Minneapolis
Tacos

Taco Cat is just as good as everyone says it is.