06.22.2019
Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars

I haven't listened to enough latter-day Springsteen albums in my life to properly place Western Stars into context. To be totally honest, I haven't even listened to enough old Springsteen albums to do so either. Still, I am shocked—shocked—at how good about half this album is. This is some of the most beautiful music I've heard all year. "Hello Sunshine" floored me when it first circulated online earlier this Spring; I listened to it about 10 times that day and it hasn't lost a bit of its power today. "The Wayfarer" could've been an all-timer tune with the E Street Band in the 70s, but works just as well in the rhinestone cowboy context of this record sung by a very different kind of 70's Bruce. "Drive Fast," "Stones," and "Somewhere North of Nashville," "Chasin' Wild Horses" and the title track "Western Stars" all cover similar acoustic ballad territory but are equally powerful. "Sundown" is corny but hearing Bruce belt the chorus like the finale of a Grand Ol Opry Vegas revue is riveting.

The rest of the songs are awful.

Truly. The gap between the good stuff and the bad stuff on this album is unlike anything in recent memory. Clearly some of these tunes were recorded at different sessions with different producers and different musicians, and it shows and it's a bummer. It's crazy to say a 2019 album by a nearly 70-year-old Bruce Springsteen inspired by Glen Campbell and George Jones and 1960s California country western pop ballads could've been one of the best albums of the decade (and his career?). It could've been the anti-Cash: aging icon makes an album about the pain of being an aging icon, except instead death and despair it's sunshine and hope. Like I said, the good songs here are fantastic. But if he just could've hooked up with the right producers and collaborators to fill this thing out—Van Dyke Parks? T Bone Burnett? Brandi Carlile? Owen Pallett? Matthew White? Dare I fucking say Jon Brion?—this could've been a head-spinning album. At the very least someone should've told him not to put "Sleepy Joe's Cafe" on there.


(2)
10.29.2019 - by Steve
Kensington Kosher DeliGreat Neck
Pastrami on rye

This was an unexpected but welcome find, a legit New York style Jewish deli—and a dive at that—in the middle of small town Long Island. Well, not as much small town as profoundly wealthy suburb, but it was nonetheless quaint, delicious, and about half the price of those big city Jewish delis you've heard so much about.

10.29.2019 - by Steve
TaïmManhattan
Falafel

Good falafel, good toppings, a good pita, multiple locations. This is a short food post.

10.28.2019 - by Steve
Buttermilk ChannelBrooklyn
Duck meatloaf

Hey now we're on a roll! After months of eating things and saying "Hmm, nothing's really blown me away in this city yet," first came Olmstead's blueberry scallops, and now Buttermilk Channel's duck meatloaf. Nothing's going to top those scallops, but this meatloaf is easily the #2 best thing I've eaten this year. And like the scallops, it comes with a sweet fruity reduction—cherry, to be specific. Nothing else too crazy about it, although I'm not sure what percentage of it was actually duck (it can't be 100%, right? That's a lotta duck. I imagine there's some pork or something in there too). Otherwise just some roasted rutabaga and some arugula, but damn it was good. Everything else we had at Buttermilk Channel—their 'famous' fried chicken and some leek soup—was totally fine but not remarkable. But the meatloaf made it all worth it.