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.

01.21.2019 - by Steve
Hometown BarbecueBrooklyn
Barbecue pulled pork

Hometown Barbecue, way out in Red Hook, is supposedly one of the best barbecue joints in New York. Eater even had it on its list of 37(ish) "essential" NY restaurants. So it's kind of a bummer that we went there on a whim—a very fast whim before grocery shopping right next door on some random Wednesday night—rather than really planning out and luxuriating in its barbecueness. What did I get? I got the pulled pork and baked beans. How was it? It was quite good, although maybe a little too wet, with all the cole slaw slopped on the top. And the beans had been seemingly been sitting in the bottom of their pot for too long, and just had that "thrice cooked" kind of taste. I couldn've lived without the beans. But, yeah, the sandwich was good from what I remember of it. But also nothing terribly remarkable. Really what it reminded me of was Green Street Meats in Chicago. Almost like the owners visited Green Street during the planning stages and said, "This is the barbecue place we want to be!" Right down to the service style and christmas-lights-in-old-warehouse decor. So for further detail, scroll back to, say, 2011, and read my Green Street Meats write-up. I'm sure it'll apply here.

01.21.2019 - by Steve
JojuQueens
Banh mi

The difference between NYC and Minneapolis (well, St. Paul) Vietnamese places is pretty noticeable. The Twin Cities are known as a pretty good area for Vietnamese food, and that's true, but that seems to come mostly in the form of mom-n-pop, hole in the wall joints. The exceptions are few—Ngon Bistro is maybe the only fine-dining Vietnamese spot, and only in the last couple years are places like Lu's trying fast-casual-ify the pho space. (I can't believe I just typed that). But all in all, Twin Cities Vietnamese feels very much like an immigrant group simply wanting to feed themselves and have a taste of home, and if curious Minnesotans want to get some lemongrass chicken, great.

In New York, meanwhile, Vietnamese feels much more like a trend. The restaurants are younger, cooler, expensiver. I've seen very few 'hole in the wall' banh mi joints, relative to NY's uber density of course, compared to MSP. And the cheaper, counter service ones are often more like the subject of this food post, Joju. Located in a very heavily Asian neighborhood in Queens (and I mean "Asian" non-accidentally; we're talking Korean restaurants next to Thai grocery stores next to specifically Taiwanese restaurants. American melting pot, etc. etc.), Joju is what one might call "cool". But not in a Williamsburg pink neon sense, more in an "anime sandwich mascots and K-pop record cover" sense. It also, like many of these places, touts itself almost as much as a bubble tea shop than it does a restaurant. Joju doesn't even have Coke!

But what they do have is delicious banh mi. We ordered two kinds, caramel pork and beef bulgogi. Oh, that's another thing—there seems to be some very blurred lines at NY banh mi shops in terms of which nation's cuisine is represented on this ostensibly Vietnamese sandwich. You're just as likely to see Korean bulgogi or Thai basil pork on the menu as the standard Vietnamese chicken or pork with pate. Which is fine by me. Anyway, the sandwiches were delicious. Maybe a little heavy on carrot, and the actual construction of the veggies and meat made for a slightly awkward eating experience, but they tasted great. They also represented one more difference that seems to separate NY banh mi from MSP banh mi: the bun was refreshingly soft. So many hole in the wall banh mi I'm used to seem to lean towards using chewy, crispy baguettes. But these NY versions are soft, and much easier to bite into. A much more satisfying experience in my opinion, and one that comes in to play with a lot of New York dough-based food, from pizza dough to bagels, simply to bread you're served at restaurants or find at bakeries. Whether it's the water or the high turnover or simply the quality of local bakeries, bread truly is better here than in the rest of the country. Crazy as it sounds.

So anyway, Joju. It's good. It's pretty deep into parts of Queens you might never go to, so maybe don't worry too much about it. There's probably others like it.

01.20.2019 - by Steve
Schnipper'sManhattan
Cheeseburger

Manhattan's got a lot of chain restaurants that aren't really chains yet, but are clearly trying to use the cachet that comes with simply being in Manhattan (usually Midtown) as a springboard to becoming a chain restaurant. The examples are so plentiful that I can barely even think of one right now. They're ubiquitous and almost entirely forgettable—forged so carefully by marketers and designers and focus groupers to create fast casual fried chicken sandwiches and vaguely ethnic salad bowls that appeal with a laser focus to newly moneyed 20 and 30 somethings, that they become invisible in their omnipresence. Hell, I posted about a fried chicken place just a month or two ago, my very first living-in-NY food post, and I don't even remember what it was called.

Anyway, Schnipper's isn't exactly that. Sorry, I don't know why I started with that whole paragraph rant. But it's at least something like it. It's a chain restaurant that exists solely within the island of Manhattan, as desperate as it seems to stretch beyond. Basically it's a fast-casual diner. We're talking classic, Mickey's-level burgers and fries and shakes, even served on those plain white diner plates. I had a cheeseburger there, and it was good. Why are there so many Schnipper's'es? I don't know. Why is it so popular? Is it?