07.29.2019
Joanna Sternberg
Then I Try Some More

Then I Try Some More initially excited me. It's a folk album that actually sounds like folk, not just some quiet singing over some guitary strums. It has real melodies, sing songy in the way that Woody Guthry and Burl Ives were, these trusty prehistoric song structures that have been sitting around waiting to get used again. Sure, she sings a shit lot like the other Joanna, and occasionally even maybe borrows a melodic line now and then, but that's okay because the other Joanna was just borrowing it from Joni Mitchell anyway, kind of a white elephant thing.

The problem is that these songs are bummers. There's a dark pessimism, bordering on depression, in just about every song here—but not the tortured-poet Elliott Smith kind of pessimism that makes you dream about being in a punk in LA or something. This is more of a "I'm young and the world sucks and nobody around me understands the real pain I'm in" kind. Just look at that album title. I'm not complaining that it's some phony, put-on pain to write songs, you can feel the real tendrils of sadness here. It's all too real. Even her singing voice sounds like a scared person holding back tears. And my 2nd or 3rd time through the album, I just hit the wall. I can't do it anymore. Joanna Sternberg is going to break through whatever darkness helped create this album, and I'll be there to listen to it. But for now I'm going to put it on the shelf with A Crow Looked At Me and feel okay with not basking in someone else's pain.

11.21.2019 - by Steve
Junior'sBrooklyn
Cheesecake, brisket, latke

Junior's Bakery and Deli is a Brooklyn institution that I've just assumed—based on its cheesecake's ubiquitous presence in local grocery store aisles and its not one but two Times Square locations, as well as the general Perkins-level sleepiness of its interior that I see through its windows every time I walk by it—is past its expiration date. Comparing it to a place like Katz's, which revels in a dogged, hard-won legitimacy, or Russ & Daughter's and its craft-and-quality-above-all ethos, Junior's simply appears a place that's given up. Or rather, sold out.

I don't know what the going opinion on Junior's is amongst the locals here, but I'm comfortable taking this stand: Hey, Junior's is actually good!

Their cheesecake, obviously, is very good. I don't think that point is too heavily in dispute, even though the grocery store version lacks a little in comparison to the fresh stuff you find at their bakery counter—which is truly and non-hyperbolically the best cheesecake I've ever eaten. But what surprised me is that their actual food, at least what we ordered, is damn respectable! The menu, which I expected to be generic American/Greek diner fare, actually leans much more into the New York Jewish deli world, with pastrami and brisket and matzo ball soup. In fact, the item I ordered, which was featured years ago on the Village Voice's list of 50 Essential New York Dishes, was a monstrosity of a brisket sandwich that uses potato latke as a bun. It was truly obscene. But It was also truly delicious, far better than I feared it might be. Erin felt her matzo ball soup was a little canned tasting, but I honestly think it was better than she made it out to be, and even more enjoyable (really) than the bowl she had from Jack's Wife Frida a few weeks ago. I can't say it was better, quality wise, than Frida's, because it obviously wasn't. But I simply found it more satisfying to eat, which kind of sums up our entire meal. I enjoyed every bit of it.

And now I'm supposed to end this review like every Junior's review probably ends, by saying something like, "But you really go there for the cheesecake!" Which yeah is probably true. But y'know what? I just had such a fine evening from top to bottom at this place, that I'm not going to minimize it with the go-there-for-the-cheesecake bit. Junior's is a joy, and I hope they never actually sell out.