08.08.2017
Mary Halvorson Octet
Away With You

I'd heard of Mary Halvorson before in recent years, but I mostly randomly happened upon this new Away With You album. It's a fascinating listen. Halvorson is a jazz/improvisational guitarist, and the octet is made up mostly of what you'd imagine a traditional jazz octet to contain. But the music feels like something truly its own. It's jazz in that it contains improvisation, is mostly instrumental, and moves itself along themes and modal movements, but save for its occasional forays into noisey free-jazz nonsense, the goup plays more like an experimental post-rock band attempting to translate marches and waltzes through the freewheeling horns of a New Orleans parade band. Except I just read that sentence and it's not like that at all. I don't even know. The high points on here are near miraculous; everything comes together behind some beautiful descending chord progression and weirdo guitar melody, and it feels completely fresh and new. And fun! But then all too often, the tracks fall apart into noodly free-jazz bullshit and aimless drum solos. It's not going to find a place in my life the way that more melodically-composed recent albums by Mammal Hands or Courageous Endeavors, but still, this is something worth hearing, refreshingly outside any sort of modern jazz orthodoxy.

12.13.2018 - by Steve
Church Avenue Deli CorpBrooklyn
Bacon egg and cheese on a roll

There are two things you need to do to officially become a Real New Yorker. One, you have to carry around a New Yorker canvas tote bag. You know the one. Second, you have to eat a bacon egg and cheese sandwich from a local bodega. This second one, I finally did, at my local unnamed generic Deli & Grocery. (Their official legal name is Church Avenue Deli Corp, which is what it says in small letters in their window, so for the sake of keeping this music and food blog impeccably organized on the back end, that's what I'm calling it). It cost me $3 (exactly) and tasted like bacon egg and cheese on a roll (exactly). That's all I have to say about it.

12.13.2018 - by Steve
LakruanaStaten Island
Sri Lankan buffet

The entirety of the Twin Cities contains one Sri Lankan restaurant. And I say "Twin Cities" because it's not even in Minneapolis or St. Paul, it's down in a strip mall in the boonies of Rosemount. Rosemount! In fact I think I've reviewed it on this very site. It's good. But I can't really compare it to other Sri Lankan restaurants because, like you may have read in the first sentence of this very paragraph, there are no other Sri Lankan restaurants in Minnesota to compare it to.

Meanwhile, just across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in cruddy old Staten Island—the dumbest borough—there are seven Sri Lankan restaurants to enjoy! That isn't to say that there are exponentially more in the rest of New York; Staten Island is actually home to a disproportionate percentage of the city's Sri Lankan population, therefore restaurants. And not just restaurants, but buffets! The most beloved of them—its presence whispered like fables amongst the intrepid food aesthetes of Brooklyn and Manhattan, rumors of spices and pastes unrivaled yet uneaten because how the fuck am I supposed to even get to Staten Island?—is Lakruana. An almost entirely inconspicuous place on the outside, just a Asian restaurant-y looking front door in the midst of electric supply stores and loose trash and who even knows what else, on the inside Lakruana is a fucking wonderland. Supposedly they've imported nearly everything in this place from Sri Lanka, from wire and rope chairs to wooden roof tiles, to cast iron pots with the buffet is actually served out of. I'd say the effect is "crazy" if that wasn't culturally xenophobic of me, so maybe I'll stick with "sensorially bounteous." Or rather, "It's a hoot." The food itself was quite good, because what little Sri Lankan food I've had is always quite good, and far richer and more varied than a lot of straight Indian food, but thinking back on it I don't really remember the details. But man was it a good trip to a Sunday buffet. I'd highly recommend checking it out if you have any idea how to get to Staten Island.