2021-12-03
The Bug Club
Pure Particles

Ignore the twee name and aughts-ass sketchpad cartoon bubble letter cover art. The Bug Club is simple and Welsh and fun as shit. Bare-bones rock-n-roll power-pop indie-boogie-woogie, blues licks and guitar solos, endless earworms and the dryest humored lead singer since Gruff Rhys. I love every one of its 20 minutes.

2021-12-03
Peter Talisman
The Lord of the Harvest

An avant-garde electronic chamber prog folk instrumental rock opera which is also the soundtrack to a video game and one of the most beautiful things I've heard all year.

2021-11-15
Courtney Barnett
Things Take Time, Take Time

This new Courtney Barnett album is kind of a bummer so far. But I'm going to give it some more time and get back you on it.

2021-11-06
Geese
Projector

Geese is supposedly New York's hottest buzz band. They're four Brooklyn high schoolers whose primary influences are Interpol and The Strokes, and I'm as shocked as you are when I say holy shit they're actually good! Like really! I was so, so ready to hate everything about this, but they kinda nail it. Yes they clearly give off some early aughts Strokesy, dance punky, post-punky vibes, but they actually seem to have fun doing it. And with swagger! Meanwhile, the singer actually sounds like he knows what he's doing, he actually goes for it. Hitting notes, singing—holy shit—melodies.

I don't know man. This isn't the instant classic that Is This It and Turn On The Bright Lights were, but it's a deeply pleasant surprise, and something tells me that Geese (ugh) maybe has a masterpiece in them once they're old enough to start drinking.

2021-11-06
Tems
If Orange Was A Place

Between this and the Obongjayar EP from earlier this year, I guess Nigerian Afrobeat is my thing now?

2021-11-04
Mastodon
Hushed and Grim

There's a new Mastodon album, and while it's not as good as their last EP (which was great, best thing they've done in 10 years), it's got a lot of cool stuff on it. Problem is there's too damn much of it.

Chalk it up to the digital music era, but I had no idea until I was done listening to it that Hushed and Grim is a double album. It's long. Too long. And it covers a lot of the same territory and there's really no reason to double it up. Not only that, but the actual sequencing of the tracks feels at times completely random, giving the thing no flow whatsoever.

So as a handy guide for my loyal readers, I've distilled this mammoth (um pun intended!) collection down into one single-disc, single hour tracklist for your iTunes playlists and CDR burns to keep in your car.

1. The Beast*
2. Pushing the Tides
3. Peace and Tranquility
4. Had It All
5. Sickle and Peace
6. Dagger**
7. Teardrinker
8. The Crux
9. Eyes of Serpents
10. Pain with an Anchor
11. Gigantium

* The Beast is far and away the best on the album, and is also not coincidentally the most interesting song on the album. Like much of that EP that I love, it's essentially a Brent Hinds country-fried solo song translated into a Mastadonian context. It's truly great and even though it's not the usual album opener, I think it would knock people's socks off to lead with it. I just wish there were one or two more similar tracks on this album.

** Dagger is nearly as odd and interesting as The Beast, just not quite as good. But it has this part in the middle where the guitars essentially hold one chord, and it turns into a hypnotic, Middle-Eastern flavored percussion drone. That's the kind of thing that usually makes me roll my eyes, the whole Middle Eastern motif gets easily overused with some metal bands, but in this particular song Mastodon nails it. I have an alternate dream version of this album where they get to this part and then just keep repeating it, ad nauseam, for 10 minutes or something. Close the album with it. It would be incredible.

2021-11-02
Valley Queen
Supergiant

Pillow Queens is the best new band I've heard in a while. They're from Dublin and play passionate, literate, grungy shoegazey alt rock, and their lead singer Sarah Corcoran sings with this barmbrack-thick Irish broogue that makes her one of the most distinctive lead singers you'll hear.

When I first listened to Valley Queen, I was perplexed. The band played a little looser, a little lighter, and something closer to Laurel Canyon classic rock rather than amp-blistering alt rock—but if you told me I was listening to an earlier Pillow Queens album, I would've believed you. The singer emotes with the same exact cadence, similar melodic tendencies, and that same distinctive Dublin accent. Uncanny.

Well obviously they must also be from Ireland, and simply share that same natural manner of singing? No! Valley Queen is from Los Angeles! Their singer was born and bred there! She went to college at Loyola Marymount! Why the fuck is she singing like her parents spent their youth on the run from the IRA?? What is going on??

I have no answers. I've looked into it, and the only thing that I can say is that she's cited The Cranberries as an influence, and I imagine both she and the members of Pillow Queens have done well to ingest some of Dolores O'Riordan's stylings into their arsenal. But when you sit and listen to the Cranberries, you hear a lot of different colorings from Dolores that never made their way to Pillow Queens or valley Queen, it's mostly just the accent. But still, that's all I've got. And I have to admit it's pretty fucking annoying to think about someone from LA singing with such an intensely put-on affectation. I'd say it makes me like the band less, but honestly I still think they're pretty good and the album is pretty enjoyable.

Furthermore: Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Do you see it? Do you see it?

Anyway. This particular Valley Queens record is from like 2016, and I've listened to a couple of their newer songs, and it sounds like they've toned down the fake Irish thing. If anything, she's singing with an equally put-on indie girl quirk, which is maybe even more annoying.

2021-11-01
Cerce
Cowboy Music

I usually hate this kinda shit, but something about these motherfuckers is working for me. File under: sassy hardcore.

2021-11-01
NOLTEM
Illusions in the Wake

I'm creating a new tier of metal bands in my mind palace. (NOTE: This portion of my mind palace is designed like a two-page spread in Kerrang! magazine). This tier includes bands like Necrot, SUMAC, Mare Cognitum, and can basically be summed up with "extreme metal bands who don't really engage me intellectually or otherwise leave much of an impression, but whose music is spiritually gratifying upon listening and goes down smooth as pudding."

Obviously the point here is that NOLTEM is one of these bands. I can tell you that they kinda sound like some combination of early-Opeth and Agalloch—and Mare Cognitum and Necrot—but otherwise I couldn't hum a single melody or lap-drum a single riff from this album. I don't currently remember any of it. But I've listened to it about a dozen times.

2021-11-01
Deerhoof
Actually You Can

Deerhoof is still doing it.

2021-10-20
Sufjan Stevens
A Beginner's Mind

Sufjan Stevens has been in the mix for so long now. Michigan was like, what, 20 years ago? So long! And what's interesting is that, this whole time (so long), every Sufjan release has felt like some sort of event. They've been grand experiments, comforting returns to form, stylistic left turns, theatrical projects, deeply personal confessions. Whether or not they've all been successful (though he does have a better 20-year batting average than most), they've all felt like something happening. A Sufjan release makes you notice.

A Beginner's Mind is the first new Sufjan album that I can really remember that just kinda came out and that's that. I think there's a bit of a theme to it: it's technically an album co-attributed to Angelo De Augustine, written and recorded by the two of them during the pandemic, locked up in a cabin somewhere, seemingly writing songs about the movies they were watching and books they were reading. Or something like that? The point is that isn't really important in this case. It's not a grand testament about life and the cosmos. It's not a confessional ode to his parents. It's just a nice collection of songs, maybe his best in a handful of years. A comforting return to form.

2021-10-17
Low
HEY WHAT

I had a borderline religious experience listening to this album last week and extraordinarily high volume while walking around the city late at night. I'm certain it's the best Low album and I'm not sure when I'll ever listen to it again.

2021-10-17
Shannon Lay
Geist

This is a mostly straightforward folkie Americana singer-songwriter album, but it's an awfully good one.

2021-10-17
Sweeping Promises
Hunger For a Way Out

The first couple tracks on this album got me real excited to hear a new post punk band that eschews post punk monotony and revels in melody. Then the rest of the tracks just kinda do post punk stuff.

2021-09-28
Fluisteraars
Gegrepen Door de Geest der Zielsontluiking

Fluisteraars has done this to me twice now. They got on my radar a couple years ago by releasing one of the most interesting black metal tracks I've ever heard—interesting in that it didn't seem to have much interest in black metal orthodoxy, occasionally throwing in some alt rock power chords and some actual humane vocals. Then they put their first full-length out, and seemed mostly to fall back into your standard black metal. I was bummed.

But then I kept listening to it. Something kept pulling and pulling me back, and I started to hear that humanity inside of it, even without any of the alt-rock tricks. It ended up being one of my faves of that year, and I listened to it a ton.

The same thing seems to be happening with this new one. The band recorded it almost on a whim, with the intention of creating something lo-fi and honest, the sound of a band in a room. And just like last time, my immediate reaction was disappointment. Because, well, it sounded lo-fi and like a few guys screaming in a room. But also like last time, I keep coming back to it, and man I think I like it.

If you sat me down and asked me to describe to you what makes Fluisteraars good, I couldn't do it. I don't know. I don't know what they're doing that other black metal bands aren't, I just feel it when I hear it. There's just more passion, more desperation, more soul in the sounds that they make. The screaming feels more human, the drums are hit with a little more catharsis, the guitars feel like they're in a room instead of plugged into a 4-track. And I guess also that they actually play melodies. Simple ones, but melodies nonetheless, which turn into earworms. There's a few other odd bits on this album that make for something—extended drum breakdowns, some trancy shit—but mostly it's Fluisteraars doing their Fluisteraars thing. And at this point I'm fully on board wherever they want to take me.

2021-12-03
Leo's LatticiniQueens
Italian hoagie

If I posted about Leo's Latticini before, I was wrong. Last time around, whatever sandwich I had struck me as very average. This time I was totally wowed. Truly one of the best sandwiches around.

2021-12-03
Two Wheels Manhattan
Pho, chicken wings

Totally decent pho. Some of the best wings I've had in New York.

2021-11-15
Joe JuniorManhattan
Cheeseburger

Joe Junior, aside from having one of the charmingest signs in all of Manhattan, is a constant presence on "Best burger in New York" lists. The place itself is very much just a diner—a somewhat charming one yes, but not quite up to that sign outside. And on my visit, it was swarming with unmasked NYU students out for brunch who were annoyed at not getting served quickly enough. I know that's not the restaurant's fault, but yikes. Although Joe Junior's, shall we say, hands off approach to service definitely didn't help the situation. These guys have clearly been living the diner life for way too long and were did not g a f about it keeping the customer happy. I dunno, good for them really.

The burger: good! Not amazing, certainly not the best in New York. But it was very edible. Which I mean as a compliment. It reminded me of the Jackson Hole Diner burger (another VIP on your average Best Burger list), where it was almost meatloaf in its consistency—soft and even light in a way, almost like it was baked rather than grilled. I'd actually put Joe Junior's ahead of Jackson Hole's, simply because it was a much more reasonable size to actually eat, compared to Jackson's basketball-sized offering.

The other odd thing: Never before has iceberg lettuce worked so perfectly on a burger. Usually the lettuce gets immediately sloppy and wilted, and doesn't make a bit of difference to any burger. But the big ol pile of iceberg on this thing actually kinda bumped it from "good" to "pretty darn good". With that extra fragile texture to the burger, having a nice crunchy cool counterpart on top made the whole thing work.

2021-11-15
Hinomaru RamenQueens
Ramen

If this website wasn't hopelessly broken, I'd use its search function to see if I've written about Hinomaru before. I think I have. But good luck.

I just wanted to check in one more time on this place, because we stopped in last week and I had their tonkotsu ramen with spare ribs. Spare ribs! I don't think I've ever had ribs within Japanese milieu. But dang, it was good. Sweet and balanced and tender as shit.

Hinomaru is pretty great, it's got a Michelin Bib Gourmand and everything. Seems to be probably the best ramen in Astoria. Maybe in Queens as a whole? Mu was pretty great, but RIP RIP as of the pandemic. Either way, if there's a better spot, I'd certainly like to know.

2021-11-12
Ramirez!Brooklyn
Tacos

I did something last night that I almost never do. In fact I usually do my best to avoid it. What I did is I saw a swarm of Cool Brooklyn Children hovering around what appeared to be a cool new restaurant in a cool part of town, and instead of turning heel and going literally anywhere else, last night I decided to stick my nose into the scrum and—really—stand in line with everyone else.

The place is called Ramirez! (exclamation point included), and is a slick little minimalist box with a cool Bushwicky neon sign (even though it's in Greenpoint), which serves tacos and Coke and Topo Chico (yes New York City is in the midst of a Topo Chico revolution), and nothing else. Part of the reason for the mass of bodies was that, oddly, Ramirez! doesn't do take out. Every order comes on a cut colorful little plastic plate. You're free to take the plate wherever you want—inside, outside, across the street, down to the river, into your car if it's cold I suppose—as long as you bring it back. Thus the crush of people 10 years younger than me hanging out eating tacos on the sidewalk.

It's too exhausting to talk about how annoyed this all made me—because honestly it didn't. It's fine. Despite the popularity of the place, there was nothing outwardly obnoxious happening, and really I was there taking up just as much space as everyone else. And I'm maybe just over being over cool places. Fucking whatever man, let's just enjoy it all. Because ultimately: these were good fucking tacos. Absolutely nothing to complain about. And by "absolutely," I mean "I guess they were a little on the wet side and the tortillas got a bit soggy." But that's it. I had 3, al pastor, suadero, and longaniza, which is a sort of chorizo, the differences between which I won't explain to you because I can't. That one was my fave of the bunch, but they were really all superb. Too small (get 4), but superb.

So. Great tacos. Honestly some of the best I've had in this city. Don't even think about going there on the weekend.

2021-11-06
Broadway Chinese SeafoodQueens
Char siu on rice

For all the Chinese places to be found in this part of Queens (i.e. in Flushing and Elmhurst), there's surprisingly few—for lack of knowing what this sort of establishment is actually called—places with ducks hanging in the window.

If you go down to Manhattan's Chinatown, or farther down into Sunset Park in Brooklyn, you'll see a decent amount of ducks in windows. What this means is they make their own barbecue duck and char siu, i.e. barbecue pork. You can just pop on in and get duck or pork on rice. They take it right off the hook, chop it up with a giant knife on a giant wood block, toss it on some rice with some cabbage, pour some drippings over the top of everything. It's almost always dirt cheap and it's even more always delicious. Especially the char siu.

Problem is in Elmhurst and Flushing, you can hardly find any of it. But I finally found one in Elmhurst, this big weird place called Broadway Chinese Seafood. It was great, of course, but it was very strong, almost too intense. The thing about char siu is that it's made to essentially be an ingredient. Of course you can plop it on rice and eat it, but a lot of people will just buy it in bulk and use it in leftover fried rice, or in soups, or as a small side to go with a larger dish. So in that sense it makes sense to lean a little stronger into the seasonings. And that's certainly what was going on here.

The other thing that stood out with this char siu was that it was topped with this sauce, which was more or less a garlic salsa. I've never had anything like it before! Super tasty, but considering the already-intense pitch of the pork, it was a lil much.

But I'm being too critical! In reality I ate the shit out of this whole tray of pork and rice and felt like junk for the rest of the night. And I'll absolutely do it again.

2021-11-01
3 Aunties Thai MarketQueens
Pork nuggets

This place is tiny but disproportionally wonderful. A little Thai grocery store that really is run by three aunties, where you can barely pass anyone in the aisle, but barely know what anything on the shelves are anyway. They've got a little kitchen in the back that makes grab-and-go bites, and I want to try one of everything. So far I've just had these little grilled pork nuggs, which were total yummz.

I may as well make this a double post, because I need to mention that I made a special trip to 3 Aunties to buy this particular brand of hot sauce called SD Sauce. It's almost like the homemade stuff you might get at a good Thai place, little chopped up bits of chilis and garlic and onion soaking in vinegar and sugar and fish sauce and lemon juice. It's powerfully delicious, and it made the pork nuggs even better. It will probably make literally anything even better.

2021-11-01
StrangewaysBrooklyn
Coriander crusted swordfish, crispy rock shrimp

Strangeways is a totally respectable hip-but-not-annoyingly-so modern new-American-ish restaurant in Williamsburg. My review of it is: it would be great if it was better.

2021-11-01
8090 Taiwan CuisineQueens
Pork chop

Update from New York Food Court! Tonight's entry, 8090 Taiwan Cuisine.

God knows I couldn't really tell you what sets Taiwanese food apart from other types of Chinese food, but I do know that most of the specifically Taiwanese stuff I've head has involved noodles, and a couple versions of stewed beef. Most of what 8090 seems to serve, though, is simple, grilled, and clean. Steaks, chicken legs, and (prepare for a paragraph break) pork chops.

The pork chop(s), I'm happy to report, were delicious. Different than a Vietnamese pork chop (my go-to at Vietnamese restaurants), heavily marinated, and actually deep fried rather than grilled. It was also served with three different marinated veggies; I honestly couldn't tell you what any of them were, but they were all great and the pork chop was great and the New York Food Court is 3 for 3 so far.

2021-10-20
Spaghetti TavernManhattan
Spaghetti in a bag

This music and food blog exists to dive deep, to examine how we nourish ourselves—spiritually and gastronomically—the choices we make in our navigation and consumption of art and culture, and to challenge the means by which we reach for our individualistic carnal edification.

The Spaghetti Tavern is an Old West themed bar that serves spaghetti in a bag. It comes with either garlic bread or crinkle cut french fries and they give you a ceramic crock of parmesan cheese so you can spoon on as much as you'd like. There's a moose head on the wall.

2021-10-17
Bolivian Llama PartyQueens
Pork chola sandwich

This is embarrassing and off-brand for me, but I like that Bolivian Llama Party is cool. So much stuff in my neighborhood is relentlessly authentic, hyper regional restaurants opened by first-generation immigrants mostly making food for their fellow expatriates and the occasional curious neighbor, with little-to-no effort put into the kind of brand-building bullshit that circles around our friends over in, for instance, the entire north half of Brooklyn. This what we always say we want, of course, these mom-n-pop-hole-in-wall beacons of authenticity. And they're great and I love them all! Don't confuse those hyphens for snark!

Bolivian Llama Party, well I mean it's called Bolivian Llama Party. Their logo is a llama in a birthday hat. There are dozens (maybe 100?) South American restaurants in this part of Queens, almost all of which conform to some level of the hole-in-wall authenticity, occasionally adopting a sleeker club vibe, all for the most part orbiting around similar collections of menu items, relative to their respective countries of origin. (And, again, that's great!). But Bolivian Llama Party is over here with fun fusiony sandwiches, loaded poutine-adjacent french fries, fun experimental ice creams, jackfruit meat replacements! Fried chicken sandwiches, dammit!

To all of which you'd usually say "okay, whatever, sounds like some shit you could find at any food hall between Greenpoint and the Lower East Side." Heck I think Bolivian Llama Party had a kiosk in a Manhattan food hall which has since closed. But I'm realizing that there's so little of that stuff around here that getting just a little bit of it is actually fun and exciting.

Furthermore, it's delicious! It's really good! I don't have a single complaint about any of it! And for being cool, it's not that cool.

2021-10-17
Zhongzhong NoodlesRoosevelt Island
Beef noodles

Roosevelt Island has like 3 restaurants and this is probably the best one. Which is actually a compliment, because Grannie Annie's has a decent fish and chips.

2021-10-17
La EspigaQueens
Barbacoa tacos

Corona Queens is full of authentic Mexican restaurants and taquerias, but something about La Espiga feels extra authentic. During the week, it's one of a countless number of basic holes in the wall, pretty standard menu as far as I can tell, they make their own tortillas, totally decent. But on weekends—and only on weekends—they sell their homemade barbacoa, and they become Superman.

And you can tell it's homemade, because they cook the stuff up in a big ol' pot right there in the front window, slop it onto a cutting board and chop it to sell by the pound and in tacos and on platters to seemingly everyone who frequents the place on weekends. I went with the tacos, and while it wasn't to the "omg I might cry" level that Birria Landia first got me to (although between birria and barbacoa, even though we're talking slow cooked red meat, we're still talking two different flavor profiles), it still fully impressed me. Rich and tender and luscious and simple, on a perfect homemade tortilla.

Meanwhile they've also got some of the best horchata around. This place is really a dream.

2021-09-28
CHEO GOD.ZIPQueens
Korean fried chicken

I'll get this out of the way: This restaurant is called CHEO GOD.ZIP. That is the name of the restaurant. It's named after a .zip file. I've searched around, and can find no reason to explain why they named it that, or what it means, or anything. It's just one of those cases (I guess?) of an Asian-to-English language/culture translation getting borked in the process, and everyone just accepting the outcome and moving on.

I only stumbled upon CHEO GOD.ZIP when I was biking out in the super Korean part of Flushing last week. I was thinking about going back to this other place called The Coop to have Korean fried chicken and watch the Monday Night Football game, when I looked up and saw that completely maniac incongruous title up above the restaurant. At first all I wanted to do was immediately take a picture and post it on social media to receive the requisite lols, but I quickly noticed that they made fried chicken. "Hmm," I thought. Then I noticed a TV above the bar, playing the football game. "Double hmm," I thought. At this point there was basically no reason not to eat at CHEO GOD.ZIP.

The restaurant itself isn't really as batshit as I'd hoped, all things considered. But aside from the occasionally boffo choices in menu organization (and pizza toppings), this is basically your standard Korean fried chicken bar. This leads me to a larger thought: much like New York pizza, I'm starting to believe that there's little to no variation in quality between Korean fried chicken places. It's seemingly quite good wherever you get it, and it never strays too far from the norm, flavor-wise. Again: they're all great! Delicious every time. But I have a hard time trying to place CHEO GOD.ZIP above or below Bonchon or Pelicana or Unidentified Flying Chickens or or or. It's all just kinda equally good.

What really makes CHEO GOD.ZIP stand out though, is their potato wedges. Honestly, probably the best potato wedges I've ever had. Crispy and precisely fried on the outside, creamy on the inside, not too fat and not too thin. If I have any complaint it's that maybe that could've used a litttttttttle more seasoning. But whatever. They were heavenly.

All paired with yr standard pickled radish cubes and a totally unnecessary cabbage salad, and CHEO GOD.ZIP is a perfectly capable little joint.

I'm going to hit Submit on this post now, just a little bit nervous that the title is going to cause a catastrophic failure on my site. Or set off Google's anti-virus warnings and leave it unreadable. This could be the end, my friends. If it is, it's been an honor serving as your music and food blogger.