04.03.2018
Mount Eerie
Now Only

The last Mount Eerie album was a towering masterpiece of grief and honesty and poetry, born out real life death and mourning, completely uncritiqueable and undeniably perfect. Now Only feels like a lesser, lighter follow up to that one, even though it is also all of those things. But it couldn't really be anything else, and that's okay. RIYL: crying.

04.07.2017
Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked at Me

A Crow Looked at Me is such a personal record that I hesitate to even call it a 'record.' I hesitate even more to attempt to write a review of it—or at least I would if I wrote reviews professionally for some critical venue or another. It's probably the best Phil Elverum record since The Glow Pt. 2, and I wouldn't be surprised if I hear people say it's his best work ever, but even that praise feels imprudent. The situation is that is the man's wife died, and he wrote these songs to try to bear it. Some of them are journalistic records of post-loss minutiae, some are memories of the days and months previous, and some are urgent pleas to the universe to make sense of it all. It's all deeply moving and deeply personal, but written beautifully and honestly, prose poetry just barely formed into songs—and it's all written specifically to her, rather than to the listener or some omniscient third party. I'm not using hyperbole when I say that it's somewhat uncomfortable to listen to, as if these are private recordings not meant to be heard by anyone else. But Elverum released it because he wants to share, so I'm okay with it (although, in honesty, I haven't even turned the record to Side B yet. It's just too painful to engage with all in one sitting). Musically it's very pretty, free of nearly all of the instrumental obfuscation that he's practiced over the last decade, generally acoustic guitar and some assorted droning keys and basses. But lyrically, I think there's no question that it's the best work of his career, although again, even raising the question or placing these words in the same canon as his previous work feels entirely beside the point. The whole collection is wonderful, really, and while I'm sure Phil might appreciate hearing that, he almost certainly doesn't care. This isn't a record of music, it's a record of a man who is trying to cope by doing the one thing he knows best how to do: making a record.

03.27.2015
Mount Eerie
Sauna

I think I've said this about every Mount Eerie album, and then immediately regretted it, but I'm sure about it this time: This is the best Microphones album since The Glow Pt. 2.

11.13.2012
Mount Eerie
Ocean Roar

As I'm becoming a bit of a Mount Eerie completist, plus the fact that he's on a bit of a hot streak and I wasn't about to miss this one, I picked up Ocean Roar, the third in a bit of a trilogy of ruminations on the natural world (imagine that!). And I kinda don't like it as much as Wind's Poem and Clear Moon. There are a couple cool high points, but a lot of it is turning into a formless, droning, damn-near-black-metal wall of sound. But whatever.

05.30.2012
Mount Eerie
Clear Moon

Clear Moon is Phil Elverum's best album since The Glow, Pt. 2 back in 2001. It's beautiful front to back. Similar-ish to Wind's Poem, but almost a complete inverse of that record, and totally upends Sigur Ros' new one in the category of "lush atmospheric mood records released by pantheon bands who peaked a decade ago." So, it's great. But what really knocks me out about it is the downright handsome packaging. Stately. Sublime. There's nothing too shocking or novel about it, it's just perfect. Lavendar tinted foil stamp of "CLEAR MOON" over a hazy, hazy picture of the moon over a mountain, in a font that's been out of style for the last 30 years, but it totally works. Skinny little lyric book with more mountain photography and no-nonsense typesetting. Clear vinyl record. Black watercolor illustration on the label. The whole production, just like the record itself, is pure class and no bullshit.

01.22.2010
Mount Eerie
Wind's Poem

While it's otherwise disposable, a mere shadow of the former greatness of The Microphones, this album can genuinely freak you out if listened to under the right circumstances. Like being alone in a dark house after reading pages and pages of stories about mysterious disappearances, unexplainable lights, and human combustion.

07.07.2019 - by Steve
Captain James CrabhouseBaltimore
Steamed crabs

Ate a bunch of crabs. Had to tear their guts out and stuff. It was a primal experience and the crab tasted good. Got a little tired of it though.

07.07.2019 - by Steve
Boog's BarbecueBaltimore
Barbecue pit beef

Camden Yards is a very important ballpark, in that it changed the way that every ballpark since has been designed and built (for better or worse, but I'll go ahead and say better). It's still a great place to watch a baseball game, and a charming piece of architecture, even if it's been copied and and bettered in many ways in ensuing years. I like Camden Yards.

Boog's Barbecue, found out in right field in the alley by the iconic warehouse, is in its own way a very important food stand. It's become tediously normal now, a stadium showcasing unique local foods and restaurants rather than simply offering hot dogs and nachos, but in the early 90s Boog's was one of the first. Every time a TV announcer talked about how beautiful Camden was, they'd always mention Boog's. Or laugh with each other about how "Boy I can't wait to get some B-B-Q before this game is done!" It became a thing.

Beyond that, I don't have a whole lot to say about Boog's, but it was actually pretty good. I was prepared to be fully underwhelmed, because that's usually how things work, but no, it was very satisfying. So go to Camden Yards, it's still great. And get some Boog's.

07.07.2019 - by Steve
Luigi's DeliBaltimore
Meatball sub

We went to Baltimore. While in Baltimore we stayed in the former-working class, former-gay, now-still-kinda-gay-but-mostly-low-key-gentrified neighborhood of Hampden, which is very much defined at this point by its connection to John Waters. There's a lot of flamingos around. You'll see them.

Anyway, even though there were a handful of 'cool' and 'good' restaurants and eateries within close walking distance of our place, I found myself craving a meatball sub. This is silly, because I live in Brooklyn (did you know that?), where I'm constantly surrounded by meatball subs at all times of the day, but rarely get them. Thankfully one of the cool and good restaurants here in Hampden was an Italian deli called Luigi's, with a meatball sub right up on their menu.

Again, I will note, I currently live in Brooklyn. There is no shortage of Italian delis here, or at least regular delis purporting to be Italian delis. The fact that I used up one of my meals in Baltimore on an Italian deli is fully ridiculous. But wouldn't you know, I'll be damned, this was a very good deli—operated entirely by some very tatt'd up Baltimore weirdo punks—and a very very good meatball sub. Although "sub" is actually a misnomer; Luigi's makes a meatball chub. The meatballs were sauce were delicious and homemade and of course the stars of the show, but instead of the standard method of cutting the bread down the middle, hoagie style, the chub involves taking an entire loaf of bread, cutting it in half, and then digging out the inside of the loaf, bread-bowl style. They then stuff the hole with meatballs and sauce, and cork it closed with some of the leftover bread pieces. This sounds like a silly novelty, but I have to say, it made it way easier to eat than your standard meatball sub! No mess, no sloppy deteriorating bread. It was great! Brooklyn delis should take note.

06.22.2019 - by Steve
Roll N RoasterBrooklyn
Roast beef sandwich

If you follow me on any given social media platform, or perhaps on occasion even speak to me casually or professionally or otherwise, or maybe if you've sat in the same subway car or lingered within 100 feet of my open apartment windows in the last 3 weeks, you've probably heard me claim at least once that Roll N Roaster is the best restaurant in New York. Look, I know it's actually not. That's just hyperbole, ok? But what it is is a beautifully odd, oddly perfect, perfectly out-of-touch fast food institution in the equally out-of-touch deep Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay. It's one of those rare places that genuinely feels like it's from another era—untouched, unchanged, balancing on a terrifying equilibrium since 1970 of being successful enough that they didn't have to reinvent the wheel, but not so successful that monied interests tried to harness its name. Yellow formica booths, golden bubble glass features, sign-painted menu boards—Don Draper could've eaten at this place. He would've hated it but his kids would've loved it, so he'd just let them eat while staring at the window and thinking about the ocean. I'd bet money that multiple movies and shows have filmed here. I'd tell you which ones, but I can't seem to find any info. But Anthony Bourdain filmed here, and probably swore.

Why Roll? Because they bake their own rolls. Why Roaster? Because they serve roast beef sandwiches (on the rolls). It's also somewhat kinda almost close to Coney Island, which has a roller coaster, so I think that must've been part of their thinking. But even closer by, just a mile north on the same road, is the ancient Brooklyn restaurant institution Brennan & Carr, which I wrote about a few months ago. I have to think that R'N'R's decision to go into roast beef was inspired by Brennan & Carr's famous roast beef, but they do a much better job. My sandwich was damn good, much more tender and fresh than B&C's, and even better than some of the sandwiches I've had at Minneapolis' own roast beef institutions of Wally's and Maverick's. I got it with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, which were actually (I think) homemade, and just as delicious. And root beer!

Roll N Roaster is not the best restaurant in New York City. But it's a true and rare gem, and I'm almost sad I discovered it because now for the rest of my life I'm going to have to worry about whether or not it's still around. 5 years from now, I'll see a rollercoaster on TV, and suddenly my mind will snap to "Oh shit, I hope Roll N Roaster is still around!". But some day it won't be, so you better go there next time you're here. Maybe just, like, go to Momofuku first.

06.18.2019 - by Steve
Hand Pull Noodles and Dumpling HouseBrooklyn
Pork rib noodle soup

These hand pull noodles and dumplings aren't up to the standards of Xi'an Famous Foods, which for me and a million other people in this city is the standard, but hey, it was good. And cheap. And nearby.

Addendum: Everyone knows Chinatown in lower Manhattan, and a lot of people know about the even-China-er-own of Flushing, Queens. But there's a couple burgeoning little Chinese/Asian neighborhoods in deep Brooklyn that offer a whole lot of decent looking food options (and a lot of hot pot) that are far enough away from the young and beautiful people of New York that they fly a little under the radar. All the dying and angry old Italians might not be too happy about it, but as long as you can get a solid bowl of soup and dumplings for five bucks on a random corner in Bensonhurst, it's hard to see a downside.