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.

11.09.2015
Deafheaven
New Bermuda

Sorry I just posted about New Bermuda, but I just wanted to chime in again, because I listened to it a couple times last week while boppin' around on a chilly dark night, and something about it was just perfect. If you're in the mood for what Deafheaven has to offer, it's a powerful, powerful record. It might just sneak up near the top of my end-of-year favorites.


(1)
10.04.2015
Deafheaven
New Bermuda

I don't buy in to any of the critique/dialogue/commentary/consensus surrounding Deafheaven. To me it boils down to, yeah, Deafheaven does some different stuff for a "black metal" band, but calm down everybody. Metal fans and writers get so concerned about this shit. Sunbather had so much damn baggage that came with it, but I found the record itself to be pretty dull. By-the-numbers post rock doing battle with by-the-numbers black metal, recorded well and performed well enough. But otherwise it bored me. New Bermuda on the other hand. This is exciting! It's not perfect, and it's not going to compete with my all time favorite works of metal, but it's good. Italic good! Because in between the flashes of black metal blastbeats and that nonsense (which I honestly quite dislike), they actually perform here as a thoughtful-yet-tight metal band. And yeah, there's some post rock in there. There's some indie rock in there. There's some goddamn Yo La Tengo in there! But as a whole it's simply powerful, moving, organically-inclined heavy metal. If they go ahead and shred any worries about "black" in their next release, they'll truly be onto something.


(1)
07.13.2013
Deafheaven
Sunbather

My ears like this record. My gut likes this record. Every music critic in the world likes this record. But when I put my brain to work on scrutinizing and trying to make sense of it, all I get back is "Generic post rock band with black metal drumming and screaming." It seems like such an obvious combination, and they're doing it well, but I feel like it's a bit of a cop out! Nothing against post rock (really?), but it's kinda not that hard to do. It doesn't take a whole lot of talent. If you take away the blast beat drumming and soul-melting screams, you've got yourself a fine-but-whatever Explosions In The Sky meets Godspeed You Black Emperor set of minor chords and layered guitar. Where are the riffs? Where are the melodies? Oh, that's right, it's black metal, so there are none. I'd ask where the lead guitar is, but on track 5 you actually hear it, and the emperor (black?) is exposed for the world to see. It's the saddest bit of unimprovised metal guitar solo you'll ever hear. Not that a good metal band is all about it's chops, but they should have chops. What these guys have is a couple Mogwai albums and a decent set of lungs. All of this is damning criticism, of course, until you reverse back to the first sentence: My ears like this album. It sounds great. It's fun to listen to. I just think we should hold off on crowning these guys until they make something more of their influences.

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.