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.

11.14.2020 - by Steve
Original American ChickenQueens
Grilled chicken, rice, veggies

There's still hope for this country, and this chicken is proof.

11.13.2020 - by Steve
Its-ItSan Francisco
Ice cream sandwiches

I can think of few other occasions where the payoff of eating a hallowed regional foodstuff so thoroughly met the heightened expectations I obtained in the months and years prior to eating said foodstuff. It's-It is it.

Erin has been entering a monthly (?) sweepstakes on Instagram for something like four years now, attempting to win a package of It's-It ice cream sandwiches, overnighted from from San Francisco (you drove and did you flew?). Well in a great sign for my chances with the Hamilton lottery (fingers crossed!), she finally received notice that she'd won! And a few days later, a dry-ice packed styrofoam container appeared at our door, packed with a dozen It's-Its of various flavors.

Reader, these ice cream sandwiches are heavenly.

I don't want to waste too much text trying to describe them, because there's not that much to describe. And what description I could give will likely be met with something like, "Okay, so what?". Because all we have here is a puck of ice cream, squeezed between two (this is essential) oatmeal cookies, and dipped (this is essential too) in chocolate. That's it. But it all works gloriously. However they're making their ice cream, however they're making their oatmeal cookies, whatever chemistry of melted chocolate they've perfected, whatever temperature they freeze these things at, there's some combination of magic in here.

That's it.

11.13.2020 - by Steve
Emoji BurgerQueens
Cheeseburger

The nearest burger place to my new apartment is called Emoji Burger. Their burgers are named after emojis. And as you can see, they brand the 😜 guy right there into the top of the bun. It would be embarrassing if it wasn't so delicious.

It doesn't beat Andrew's Luncheonette, which was probably my previous favorite burger in town, but it was startlingly close.

11.13.2020 - by Steve
David's BrisketBrooklyn
Brisket on rye

The last place that was on my list of food to finally eat before I leave Brooklyn for Queens (because once you move to Queens you're never allowed back into Brooklyn. It's the law.) was David's Brisket, a secret dark-horse competitor in the ongoing debate of What's The Best Jewish Deli in New York.

(It's still Katz's, but lemme keep writing this anyway). You don't hear much about David's Brisket. It's a nearly invisible hole-in-the-wall in the middle of Bed Stuy—not exactly Jewish deli territory—and doesn't visually impress much on either the outside or the inside. You'd barely even consider it a 'Jewish deli' when you're in there. I don't think it serves blintzes or latke or matzah ball soup or any of those other standards, just the basics: brisket, pastrami, corned beef, and maybe smoked turkey, along with some basic potato and macaroni salads. I think the pastrami is perhaps the "right" sandwich to order there, but I decided to go with the brisket. Because it's David's Brisket! It's right there in the name!

And it was great! Tender, succulent, flavorful! And whatever rye bread they used gave juts enough bite on its own, that I wasn't too bummed that they forgot to give me a side of mustard. Walked down, sat on some stranger's iconic Bed Stuy stoop, and enjoyed the hell out of every bite.

I'd love to go back for the pastrami, but I don't think Brooklyn will let me.

11.02.2020 - by Steve
Nan Xiang Xiao Long BaoQueens
Xiao long bao, potherb mustard salad

It wasn't part of the plan, but our first indoor dining experience in I don't even want to look up how many months came at a dumpling joint in Flushing.

I wish I could explain the essence of Flushing to you, but you should really see it for yourself. When you're in Chinatown, you look around and it still feels like you're in old Manhattan—just Chinatown Manhattan. But Flushing, you get off the 7 train, walk up the stairs, and you'll think you're in Hong Kong or something. The buildings are newer, the signage is bigger and brighter, everything is a little more fresh, in that sort of post-war, malls-stacked-on-malls kind of way.

An added wrinkle is that you're starting to see what you can only really call gentrification, except it's Asian-American gentrification rather than your standard white yuppie type. New ugly glass condo buildings, dotted with trendy restaurants and clubs and tea shops, mom and pop places seemingly being replaced by overseas chains. It's a little dizzying—you want to gripe about it, but at least it's not all gastro-breweries and Whole Foods.

So in one of these new ugly glass condo buildings, is Nan Xiang, which has been in the neighborhood for years, and just moved locations from its little hole in the wall to this shiny new 2nd floor patio. So I guess it's not all chains. Anyway Nan Xiang has long been known for their soup dumplings (xiao long bao), and after stopping by our new place in Jackson Heights to get the keys, we decided to venture to Flushing for dinner. Their patio was totally swamped, but we decided to brave the inside anyway. (Side note: There's an entire essay that could be written about the way the Chinese and larger Asian community in New York City has dealt with the pandemic. The short version: Much better than the rest of us. So we actually felt more comfortable eating in this place than, say, The Kettle Black down in Bay Ridge. Anyway).

The dumplings were great! Very great! I've somehow never been fully satisfied by a soup dumpling—even thought they're supposed to be the greatest morsels ever created—but these might actually have been the best I've ever eaten. So the hype is warranted. But the other dish that somehow blew me away was this salad that we ordered on the side, made with potherb mustard greens, tofu, and red peppers. I've never had a salad quite like it, and the flavor combination was wonderful! Cool and crisp and light, a perfect side dish for a meal like this.

We also got some noodles, but they were lame, so let's not talk about that. Dumplings, yes! Salad, yes! Flushing, yes!