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.

12.11.2015
Beach House
Thank Your Lucky Stars

So Beach House is all, "Hey, maybe we should put out another album even though we just put out a perfectly good one a month ago." And nobody was like, "Yo, Beach House, maybe just hold up for a second. Give it some time. Let it marinate a bit." Although if you were to take "The Traveller" and "Elegy to the Void" and throw them on Depression Cherry in place of that record's two worst songs, you'd have one hell of an album. One hell of an album.

08.31.2015
Beach House
Depression Cherry

My relationship with Beach House is complicated. I like them. But I want them to do better. I know they can do better. Even though what they do is good. Depression Cherry is maybe building up to be my favorite of their records—I think? It's hard to draw a line between them sometimes. Their whole catalogue is basically one big gradient, from orange to salmon to pink; they're clearly in a different place now than they were 7 years ago, but I couldn't tell you how or when they got here. But it's all equally pretty and lovely and lovely and pretty. They really understand progressions and arrangement, and are slowly getting a handle on using vocal harmonies for movement rather than simply atmosphere. But what bugs me about this album in particular is Victoria Legrand's unwillingness to truly unleash her voice. It's a powerful instrument she has when she belts in her lower register, like Nico (or someone better than Nico). But she's constantly keeping it in check here, choosing instead to use a quieter, breathier head voice that just doesn't have the same weight. A shame, yeah, but they've still made a(nother) totally listenable album with melodies that hook you out of nowhere, and just enough surprises to keep from lulling you to sleep.


(1)
12.09.2012
Beach House
Bloom

I gave this Beach House record another spin the other night, just to give it a chance to win finally win me over. It may have been partially contextual--late night, a chill in the air, all that--but I will fully admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Make no bones about it, Beach House still infuriates me with their endlessly repetitious eighth notes and mid temp 4/4 dullery. But I've decided that accepting them for what they are, listening to their album specifically as a Beach House album (in the same way that one should always judge a Woody Allen movie as a Woody Allen movie), swallowing my pride and just zenning out, this is a pretty enjoyable album. I mean, that's a ton of qualifiers, but there. I also think that it speaks volumes about the melodic sensibility and voice of their singer. As in: just imagine how good they could be if they'd stop worrying about being Beach House.

05.16.2012
Beach House
Bloom

Since the music press is already dubbing Bloom "The greatest album ever bestowed unto us by our loving and gracious God," and "a work of art that makes Revolver sound like the gaseous wheeze of a desiccating beached whale" (not even paraphrasing!), and since I would've really liked Teen Dream if it wasn't for all the monotony ("Zebra" was great though), I'm diving right into Bloom. But I accidentally had my iTunes set to shuffle and didn't realize it until it was playing the 16 mintues of silence at the end of the last track. Experience ruined! Either way, still too many goddamn quarter notes. Syncopation, Beach House! Syncopation!


(1)
04.13.2010
Beach House
Teen Dream

I hate to say it, but this is growing on me. Just a little. I mean, it's still pretty hard to listen to the entire album without wanting to punch a wall, but two or three songs worth is actually a pretty nice listen.

01.29.2010
Beach House
Teen Dream

Do you like quarter notes? Do you like vague, dispassionate background vocal harmonies? Do you like Mazzy Star or Low, but always wish they'd add about 4bpm to their songs? Then buy this album! It will completely wear out its welcome by the opening notes (quarter notes) of the third track, but Pitchfork gave it a 9.0, so it's great!

03.16.2019 - by Steve
Lions and Tigers and SquaresManhattan
Detroit style pizza

I'm going to try to keep this short. Because there's so many levels to it that I'm just exhausted from it already, especially having just written a 30 page essay about black and white cookies. Here's what's up: Detroit-style pizza is a thing now. It's a thing. Do they really make pizza like this in Detroit? Because if you ask me, what's known as Detroit-style pizza is what Rocky Rococo has been making my entire life. Square pan, thick crust with butter-crispy edges, personal sized pizza. You can even find versions of it in this city called something like "Sicilian style" or "grandma style." Where did this Detroit thing come from? Are you from Detroit? Can you help me?

That said: Detroit style pizza is delicious. Lions and Tigers and Squares, a new little shop that's decided to kickstart the trend in Chelsea, does a fine job of making it. It's probably an insult to them for me to say I like Rocky Rococo better though. But that's okay; Rocky Rococo is the best. Have you been there lately? There's one left in Brooklyn Center. Check it out.

And I have to admit, despite my annoyance at this whole "Detroit" thing, Lions and Tigers and Squares is an extremely clever name. Think about it.

03.09.2019 - by Steve
Zabar's Manhattan
Black and white cookie

I'm here to talk about the black and white cookie. This post specifically says "Zabar's" on it, which is where I purchased and photographed this particular black and white cookie, but having eaten a handful of different cookies from various locations—from trashy deli to beloved contemporary bakery—I have thoughts on this style of cookie in a more general sense, and subsequently thoughts about New York City's cultivation of a unique and hyper-local cuisine. If you would allow me to elucidate? Thank you.

There are certain foods that have been used for decades as a shorthand for "New York." Hot dogs. Bagels. Pizza slices. Pastrami on rye. These are all still pretty apt choices, but it's also an old list. It's 2019, times change, a whole new crop of people have been living here long enough to become a part of it. There's still a clear family of foods that are not necessarily unique to this city, but are so ubiquitous here while remaining somewhat niche in other places, that they feel truly like part of the makeup of New York's ecosystem. The list as I see it:

1. Halal chicken on rice
2. Pizza slices (going nowhere)
3. Bacon egg and cheese sandwiches
4. Bagels (going nowhere)
5. Boar's Head deli meat sandwiches (Boar's Head feels like a fancy good brand at stores in Minnesota. Here it is literally everywhere. You can't not buy it. Even the shittiest scariest lamest bodegas serve Boar's Head without fail.)
6. Seltzer
7. Jamaican beef patties
8. Hot dogs (going nowhere, but seemingly overtaken by halal chicken on rice carts)
9. Pickles
10. Black and white cookies

The black and white cookie might be the least visible of the items on this list, yet it's still extremely New York. It was even part of a Seinfeld gag! I don't think I ever saw one for sale anywhere in the Twin Cities. Maybe possibly once or twice in little bakeries, but not really. Here they're almost always right there in the pastry rack, next to the chocolate chip cookies and muffins and cakes, and just as often are up on or near the front counter of random crummy delis and bodegas, pre-packaged from whatever food distributers make them. What surprised me most about the black and white cookie, though, is that's it's barely even a cookie! I bit in, expecting sort of a standard sugar cookie, or perhaps something like a snickerdoodle, but really they're practically cake! They're extremely soft, like a very thin cake; or like a very wide muffin top. The icing, as you can see, is half chocolate and half plain (or vanilla?). And that's it.

I've had 3 or 4 at this point, and while the quality of course varies on the quality of the bakery. I've had them pre-packaged from a deli, and I've had one from a artisanal bakery in Prospect Heights that was listed on one food blog as the best black and white cookie in Brooklyn. In general they're always tasty. But they're too big, the icing sometimes gets weirdly chemically and kinda gives me a headache. But they're always satisfying.

This specific cookie that's up there in the photograph (and listed as the title of this post!) is from Zabar's, a "famous" Upper West Side grocery store that is supposedly famous for the black and whites. All I can say is it was good. Maybe the best I've had? It was certainly better than the cheap deli ones, and I actually didn't like the aforementioned Prospect Heights one all that much. So I guess Zabar's is technically the best I've had. But mark my word I'm going to track down the true king of black and white cookies in this town.

(Oh, also Zabar's pastrami sandwich was incredibly mediocre. Not worth a post.)

(Oh, oh, and the new Vampire Weekend music video was filmed in Zabar's! And Jerry Seindfeld was in it! We've come full circle!)

03.09.2019 - by Steve
Brennan & CarrBrooklyn
Roast beef sandwich

Brennan & Carr is somehow maybe the least New York restaurant in New York, and yet has been around longer longer than almost any other restaurant in New York. Located way down in deep Brooklyn—we're talking old Italian families who still probably have mob ties, entire neighborhoods of Russians who probably also have mob ties, and actual grass yards—this place was supposedly built in the mid-30s, and at the time was entirely surrounded by farm fields. Which makes sense when you see it; it's built as a freestanding house-type structure, with a couple additions that have been built over the years. It feels old and almost Midwestern in a way that hardly anything else in this city does. And their specialty is equally old and Midwestern: roast beef sandwiches. They've got other stuff on their menu, notably clam chowder (not so Midwestern), but it's the kind of place where if you order those other items, the waiter (a scummy teenager in a white shirt and bowtie) might honestly get confused for a second. You go to Brennan & Carr for the roast beef and chowder. And the wood paneled walls and old cowboy paintings. The sandwich itself was, I guess, satisfying. It didn't stack up to some of the classic Minneapolis roast beef joints like Wally's and Maverick's, but it was doused in jus and generally tasted pretty good. It could've used some horseradish though.

02.12.2019 - by Steve
Andrew's LuncheonetteBrooklyn
Cheeseburger

This is the best burger in Brooklyn until further notice. I want another one right now.

02.12.2019 - by Steve
Foxfire Mountain HouseThe Catskills
Flank steak

I've already typed a bunch about the Catskills being uncomfortably bougie and urbane given its status as a woodsy mountain getaway (see my Phoenicia Diner post below), so I won't do that here. I also won't do that here because it would make me a hypocrite. See, on our last night in town, we wanted to get a nice meal, and found this seemingly new boutique hotel restaurant called the Foxfire Mountain House, which was well reviewed, albeit by very few people. In fact, when we showed up, there were only 3 other people eating there, and the staff seemed genuinely surprised to see us. But let me just say: this entire meal was a wonderful fucking experience. The place was super charming (if a little interior-decorator-y), the cool guys running the place were extremely pleasant and decent, and the food was truly one of the best meals I've had in a while. Erin's in particular was mind blowing; a slow roasted pork rubbed in some sort of garam marsala maybe (it was slightly Moroccan, see also my Phoenicia Diner post below!), with a corn meal mash and some apples. It was out of this world.

So, yeah. I can't hate on the Catskills. They treated us right.