02.24.2018
Ought
Room Inside The World

Ought has never fully won me over on a single album. I'm fully in love with 3-4 of their songs, but a lot of their other ones are just a little too Wire/Fall/post-punky for my baby ears. But when they're on, they're on. Italicized. This new one, then, is a bit surprising; it doesn't have that 1 killer single, but at the same time, the whole record comes together better for me than their others. Mostly that's because they've clearly shifted their sound into a more "melodic" direction. Scare quotes mandatory, since their singer has a, um, unique (italicized) way of delivering words into a microphone. Speaking of unique vocalizing, do you like Future Islands?

09.25.2015
Ought
Sun Coming Down

I really ought to dislike should dislike Ought. Especially for a band so obviously influenced by a handful of 70s post punk slash art punk groups like The Fall and Wire and Television that I admittedly and disgracefully have a hard time listening to. Basically anything that revolves around dissonance and sloppy hollered sing-talking turns me right off. No offense to those groups; I appreciate their place in the canon, but they just bring me zero pleasure. Ought, on the other hand, and for reasons I can't even pinpoint, are enjoyable to me. They just make tasteful choices. The singer—well, shout sing talker—has a unique and instrumental voice, and like a great rapper, or actor, or the guy from Future Islands, he knows how to make his projection and tenor work for the betterment of the song, even if he's not actually "singing" any particular melodies. Or if he's just trying to sound like Mark E Smith. Anyhow, this record is a better one front to back than their debut, though it's missing the one killer single which that album had in "Habit," one of my favorite songs of that year. Still, it's a good one, and this is a good group. And no I'm not going to go back and try to "get into" Wire. I've tried. It's not happening.

07.09.2014
Ought
More Than Any Other Day

An equally satisfying and disappointing melange of old-school Tortoise, old-school Talking Heads, and old-school Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, with a little Television, Wire, and Don Cab thrown in for good measure . And I'm not going to write anything more about it, because I just depressed myself by using the phrase "old-school Clap Your Hands Say Yeah."


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04.06.2019 - by Steve
John's DeliBrooklyn
Johnny roast beef

I've been slowly eating through a list of Brooklyn's greatest old-school sandwich joints. This is a sandwich town, they say, and I'd like to think I'm a sandwich guy. I haven't posted about all of them on here, because basically they've all brought me to the same conclusion: pretty good I guess, but not amazing.

I can't make any conclusions of why this is. Maybe it's that everyone gets the same ingredients from the same distributors. Maybe they don't just make'em like they used to. Maybe they were never great to begin with? But even though I've gotten to visit some weird deep Brooklyn neighborhoods, heard some sweaty Brooklyn accents, and seen some fantastic old-school hand painted signage and menu boards (hey Lioni's), this sandwich odyssey has left me where I was when I started: The greatest sandwich I've ever eaten is still the roast beef from Clancey's Meats, and the greatest Italian sandwich I've ever eaten is still from (world's largest sigh) Jersey Mike's.

Anyway, the Johnny roast beef from John's Deli is at least interesting enough to post here. Just look at that photo. We've got some fresh sliced roast beef (although not as fresh as the aforementioned Clancey's), some caramelized onions, and a liberal helping of their "famous" beef gravy. It's simple, but it's not something you can find at the thousands of other delis around town. And it's tasty! And rich! But man, if this is really one of the great New York Sandwiches, I don't know what to think of this place anymore.

04.05.2019 - by Steve
Thai Farm KitchenBrooklyn
Kao thod nhaem klook, pad thai

The week we moved in to this apartment in the lovely Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, we ordered in some Thai food. As one does. I'd been warned in advance that the Thai food "scene" in New York isn't as good as you might expect, and that most places in town (with the exception of one particular restaurant in Queens, but we'll save that for another time) serve basically the same decent generic American Thai food you can get anywhere between here and Des Moines. So with expectations low, I was caught off guard by how good, and how unique the food from this Thai Farm Kitchen was. Nothing particular drew us to this place over the 3 or 4 other nearby options; it was just a new-ish, cute-ish little joint in the middle of our weird, not-quite-yet-gentrified Russian and Bangladeshi neighborhood. But the menu had some interesting options on it, and the food we got was all fantastic. We lucked out.

Fast forward, like, two months. I'm doing laundry across the street on a weekday night, and I notice there's a line out the door (mid-winter, mind you) at Thai Farm Kitchen. The next week it's the same. Then we try to go there to eat on a Saturday night—two hour wait. We try again a couple weeks later—hour and a half wait. The place is constantly packed. The secret is out, not so lucky anymore.

Turns out, as we guessed after the first couple attempts, that in fact the New York Times wrote a very positive review of the place, and that seems to be simultaneously a holy anointment and a kiss of death in this city. Great for them, because I'm sure they're suddenly making double the money the ever imagined making in their first year. But damn, we found our little place, and now we're stuck out in the cold!

Anyway, we finally got in the other night, and it was no fluke. The food is up there with the best Thai I've had anywhere, the menu is just left of standard (they serve their pad thai with fried calamari, which doesn't sound exciting, but it adds a lot!), and the staff is downright charming. By this time next year, we ought to be able to get a table there on a weekend again.

03.23.2019 - by Steve
Federoff's Roast PorkBrooklyn
Roast pork sandwich

Federoff's is a little slice of an eatery just off the annoying strip of Bedford in Williamsburg, humbly promising a Philadelphia away from Philadelphia, including cheesesteaks (of course), scrapple, and the true jewel of Philly cuisine, roast pork sandwiches. Really, the cheesesteaks and scrapple are of secondary concern; the roast pork is right there in the title.

Federoff's is doing everything right. The sandwich looked delicious, the pork was clearly fresh and roasted in house, as was the broccoli rabe, the hoagie roll is satisfyingly chewy without being tough, and the vibe of the place is full-on effortless charm. So why didn't I like it?

I didn't like it! it should've been amazing but I didn't like it! Issue one is that the pork, for as fresh and juicy as it was, simply tasted like pork fat. Maybe this is how it's supposed to be; I've only had one legit Philly roast pork before (see: Paesano's, which was amazing). But it just lacked any sort of seasoning that you'd expect in an ostensibly Italian roast. The Paesano's pork I ate last year was something closer to porchetta—porky, yes, but balanced with garlic, oregano, salt, all the good stuff. This Federoff's pork was almost as if they threw the pork shoulder in the oven totally bare and called it done, which left it not exactly bland, but in fact overwhelmed with an off-putting flavor of cheap pork fat. The next issue was in the broccoli rabe. It was bitter. Way too bitter. That's what you get with rabe when you don't do it exactly right, and apparently they didn't do it right. The Philly sandwich rabe is also usually full of garlic and lemon—something you can actually get at Italian delis all over Philly and New York—but this was just lacking. Total bitterness. Top it off (literally) with some pickled cherry peppers that didn't help any of the issues, and you've got a real disappointing lunch. I just sat there and ate in disbelief, because like I said earlier, it looked so good! It should've blew my mind. Maybe the scrapple will?