11.02.2020
Future Islands
As Long as You Are

There's absolutely nothing about this new Future Islands album that makes it any different than their last two or three. When I heard the advance singles, I could only shake my head and sigh and admit that, after the bummer that was The Far Field maybe I was done with Future Islands.

And then it comes out and I listen to it in full, and it might actually be their 2nd or 3rd best album! I can't account for it, I can't point out what makes it stand out. It just works. The songs are "better," the vocals are "feeling it". Whatever any of that means. I've already listened to it more than I ever listened to Far Field, maybe more than Singles and On the Water. Sometimes it just works I guess.

04.09.2017
Future Islands
The Far Field

I'm super impressed by Future Islands' ability to stay the course. They easily could've gone the obnoxious route after 2015's "breakthrough", hiring big-name producers (Danger Mouse?) or bringing in bigger sounds (Danger Mouse and an orchestra?) or—mercy—partnering with Young Thug or something. But what they did is make another Future Islands album. And while part of me is curious about what exactly "next level Future Islands" might've sounded like, I'm perfectly happy just taking 12 more songs of Sam Herring—possibly the best voice in all popular music right now—singing over some steely driving indie new wave.


(1)
03.26.2014
Future Islands
Singles

It's crazy to me, that now, in 2014, a band can actually make a true splash and gain a whole new level of popularity by a single performance on network television. And crazier still, is that the band that did just that earlier this month was Future Islands. Don't get me wrong, they're great, they're awesome, I love their records but they are capital-E esoteric. Never would've guessed they'd hit it. But man oh man, I was as taken as everyone else by the force of nature that is Samuel Herring, like a jive dancin Marlon Brando, tearing up the stage on Letterman. I've sworn since day one that the dude has possibly the most powerful voice in indie music today. He could front a band of any genre, metal, soul, country, and be just as great. Anyway, all this means that their new one, Singles, came out today to way more fanfare than anyone ever would've guessed. And it's good. It's got energy. It's got melody. You can actually dance to it, unlike In Evening Air, which you can only, like, sad-guy dance to. I think they can do better though; there's a smallness to it that I wish they'd overcome. Synth patches, programmed new wave drums, New Order driving basslines. It's all there, as always. But I still think they can be so much more. But then I'm reminded they recorded this pre-Letterman. The most that this record makes me want to do is wait to see what they do now that they've tasted power.


(2)
07.25.2010
Future Islands
In Evening Air

In Evening Air isn't growing on me per se, since I liked it from the beginning. But it has, stealthily as Tony Stark's blood toxicity levels, been thoroughly infiltrating my music selection, to the point that if I'm not listening to a podcast (sorry, music), there's about a 40/60 chance that I'm listening to Future Islands. Quite a feat considering that I can barely communicate what it is I even like about them.

06.20.2010
Future Islands
In Evening Air

Everything about Future Islands points directly at me hating them. Or at least ignoring them. I don't like Joy Division, I don't like New Order, I don't like Tom Waits, and I don't like megahyped blog buzz bands from Baltimore. (It's not that I don't like them, but you could say that I'm very, very wary of them. How's that?) So why is it that this band comes out of nowhere (and Baltimore), sounding like Tom Waits singing in a Joy Division/New Order tribute band, writing songs that aren't particularly smart or memorable, and I love it? Eating it up, in fact. I think the key is that despite all the referential sounds they're making, none of it seems silly. It all feels honest and heartfelt, and somehow overcomes its own referentiality. And he sings like Bowie sometimes, too. I like Bowie.

12.31.2020 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2020Queens
A List

Boy what a year, huh? Okay, let's get on with it.

1. Caleta 111 (Queens) - Ceviche
2. Its-It (San Francisco) - Ice cream sandwiches
3. Emily (Manhattan) - Emily burger
4. Talula’s (Asbury Park) - Pepperoni honey pizza
5. F&F Pizza (Brooklyn) - Sausage sage and brown butter pizza
6. Phayul (Queens) - Hot sauce
7. Peter Pan Donuts (Brooklyn) - Donut
8. Arepa Lady (Queens) - Arepa de choclo
9. Randazzo Pizza (Brooklyn) - Chorizo pizza
10. Tung Tung (Brooklyn) - Char siu
11. Pastrami Queen (Manhattan) - Pastrami sandwich
12. Ugly Baby (Brooklyn) - Kang prik
13. Korzo (Brooklyn) - Korzo Burger
14. Hassan Halal Meat & Grocery (Brooklyn) - Kebab
15. Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Queens) - Potherb mustard salad
16. Regina’s Grocery (Manhattan) - Meatball sandwich
17. Thaan (Queens) - Various Thai things
18. Original American Chicken (Queens) - grilled chicken and rice
19. Los Tacos No. 1 (Manhattan) - Tacos
20. SriPraPhai (Queens) - Duck curry

12.31.2020 - by Steve
Arepa LadyQueens
Arepa de choclo

Arepa Lady began in lower case, "the arepa lady" who became a sensation running an arepa cart around Queens a few years ago. But then recently her two sons decided to capitalize the operation (get it??), and now it's Arepa Lady, a full-on brick and mortar restaurant in Jackson Heights, literally one block away from my new place. I don't know if they're the best arepas in the neighborhood, because there are so many arepa options around here, but I'm perfectly comfortable putting them at #1 on the arepa de choclo alone. Get it with chicharron, and you're basically eating super-powered Colombian pancakes and bacon. Everything else here is good too of course, but the de choclo is the winner. This is actually the first case where I've actually lived so close to a legit amazing restaurant, and we're trying hard not to just eat it every week. Maybe tonight though?

12.31.2020 - by Steve
F&F PizzaBrooklyn
Sausage and sage pizza

A few years ago, before I lived here, I made a visit to a restaurant called Frankie's 457 Spuntino. I wrote about it. Look it up, won't you? Well so about a year ago, Frankie's opened up a slice shop called F&F, right next door (although they also have a pizza restaurant called Frank's, on the same block. It's all very confusing), and I ran into one of those situations where suddenly, out of nowhere, every food-ish type media outlet was casually referring to F&F as one of the best pizza joints in the city. Lucky for me, I happen to get my hair cut at a place right across the street, and stopped by after a pre-pandemic haircut to get a slice. Pepperoni, I believe, because they were out of everything else that evening. It was good, but I wasn't fully moved to declare F&F the best anything.

Fast forward to this year—I dunno, August? (I'm just posting this now because I forgot to back then. It's been a stressful year okay?). I was in the neighborhood again, and thought I'd give it another shot. This time they were fully stocked, and specifically pushing this one particular pie, hot sausage with sage and brown butter. Say no more! And this time around, yes, absolutely ready to declare F&F the best something.

Without going too far, in terms of preparation or presentation or thankfully price, F&F is absolutely dabbling in "elevated" pizza. The dough has a sourdough bite, the sausage and sage are conservatively spread, and it's cooked to just a little more of a browned char than at your average slice place. And it all comes together absolutely beautifully, the cheese and grease and brown butter sage caramelizing together into a rich singular thing, all on a paper plate for about $4.50. Best pizza in the city? Impossible question. But as far as your standard NY style triangle slice joint goes, sure, yes, I don't think I've had better.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Regina's GroceryManhattan
Meatball parm

Regina's is a new-fake-old Italian deli in a real-old space in the old-fake-new Lower East Side. The guy who runs it was rude as hell and I waited a half hour for my order, but I wasn't even mad because this was the best meatball sandwich I've had in this town.

12.30.2020 - by Steve
Amdo KitchenQueens
Momos

I had to look up the fact that this momo truck is called "Amdo Kitchen." As far as I'm concerned it's just "that momo truck outisde of Phayul with the Golden Momo Award advertisement on the side." As I said in the Phayul post (scroll down a few why don'tcha?), this little corner of Jackson Heights is swarming with momo trucks and carts. This is one of them. But they won a Golden Momo award, so of course I'm gonna eat at this one!

Good momos. Better than Phayul's. Hot sauce wasn't nearly as good. Now if I could get Phayul's hot sauce with this truck's momos...