02.27.2017
Ryan Adams
Prisoner

I generally haven't been a big fan of Ryan Adams' music. I definitely haven't been a big fan of Ryan Adams' personality. But I have to say I'm really, really into this new one. It's big but it's personal, tongue-in-cheek maybe, but no more than nearly everything he does is tongue-in-cheek in one way or another. But it does lead me—along with some of the later-era Fleetwood Mac I've been listening to lately—to one major conclusion about the state of today's music trends (as if I hadn't already come to enough conclusions on those). It's that everybody in the last couple years has been digging into the 80s, grabbing the synth sounds and the wet drums and the gauche of it all, but they're missing the romanticism of it, the grace. But that's what Prisoner seems to get right. There are subtleties to the arrangements, and Adams seems to know when it's about to go too far into parody or irony and pulls it back. But on top of it all, it's still a Ryan Adams album, with admittedly great Ryan Adams songwriting and vocals (I've never liked the guy, but I have to admit he knows what he's doing), that pulls all of the right 80s influences off the record shelf. Granted, unlike most everyone else going for this sort of sound, Adams probably actually listened to this stuff growing up and actually has the right records to pull.

06.11.2017 - by Steve
JL BeersNortheast Minneapolis
Cheeseburger

I'd been mostly avoiding this JL Beers place that popped up in Northeast a couple years ago, because it had the desperate stink of a chain trying hard not to look like a chain in order to appease all of us city folk. Which is exactly what it is. But when I found myself in need of a very particular kind of thin, oniony, 'burger stand' style bar burger one night, I discovered that is the exact kind of burger JL Beers makes. Which is refreshing for a chain like that. Furthermore, with a little snooping I learned that JL originated in Fargo, and really only has a few locations in the North and South Dakota, and now a few in the Twin Cities. So as far as chains go, it's almost downright charming. Okay, so I'll go to JL Beers. The place is set up just like some "real" dive bar. Long, open grill and fryers behind the bar, not a ton of tables. The biggest red flag is on those grills, where they have automatically timed presses (I guess you'd call them?) that flatten and speed-cook the burgers on the grill. Which feels a little sad, but maybe fun that you could say your burger is cooked by robot? Or maybe every restaurant has these, but just never out in the open? Anyway, I got a cheeseburger, and it looked perfect, like something from Matt's or the Cedar Grill or any 'real' place that JL Beers is trying to mimic. Except: the burger tasted gross. It reminded me of the burgers I'd get as a kid from a Chinese restaurant when I was too picky to eat Chinese food. This very specific, oily, tinny essence that just tastes wrong. And the fries had a similar wrongness. So. They almost did it, JL Beers. Almost.