07.16.2017
Sufjan Stevens
Planetarium

I'm filing this under "Sufjan Stevens," because it feels like his album, but in reality, Planetarium is a collaboration between Sufjan, Nico Muhly, and Bryce Dessner. That sounds like a perfect combination of collaborators, and an album where each song is about some different celestial object or idea sounds like a perfectly batshit dumb idea for Sufjan to absolutely pull off. And when you hit play, it works. It sounds like a beautiful surprise Sufjan album that basically came out of nowhere, and it's terribly exciting. But then it just keeps going, and nothing much happens. It doesn't build to anything great, no single song stands out from the others. It's just, sort of present. Like a lesserAge of Adz. Which sounds harsh, but I don't know if there's anything on here to even be harsh about. It just doesn't land.

04.01.2015
Sufjan Stevens
Carrie & Lowell

Everyone's flipping out about Carrie & Lowell, calling it maybe Sufjan's best album, praising its deep honesty, all that stuff. Look, I like it. It's super pretty to listen to, it has some lovely and dark lyrical moments, great restrained arrangements. It's a great piece of work. But it's certainly no Illinois or Michigan. I'm not even sure it's better than Seven Swans. But it's plenty good to make me forget about The Age of Adz.

10.23.2010
Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz

That 25 minute song at the end of The Age Of Adz, the one which I skipped the first time around because 'come on, it's a 25 minute track at the end of the album!", turns out to be the best thing on the album. Who'da thought? Between that and the 11-minute title track and the 17-minute "Djohariah" from his All Delighted People EP from a few months ago, he could've had an incredible 3-track record, which would still clock in at nearly twice the length of Weezer's green album. And I would've been a happy camper. But as it stands, he's put out 3 tracks of genius and 16 tracks of filler this year, which, mathematically, is not in his favor.

10.16.2010
Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz

I've given this a couple admittedly unfocused listens so far, and am left not feeling strongly in one way or another. It's definitely a grower. It's definitely a headphone album. And it's definitely the best use of trombone from an indie rocker this year (although Joanna's "Good Intentions Paving Company" seemed like the runaway trombone song of the year). Beyond that, we're left with a bunch of squelching, squealing electronic experiments, which may or may not have good songs hidden under them. I haven't figured that part out yet.

10.13.2010
Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz

I don't know.

08.23.2010
Sufjan Stevens
All Delighted People

Sufjan Stevens released this "EP" completely out of nowhere this weekend, which I think is great, and is something artists should do more often. And while I'm only halfway through the first track (the 11-minute title track), the only thing that keeps coming to my mind is how similar it is, in a few different ways, to the music and arrangements on the new Joanna Newsom album (other than the fact that this is an EP and that was a triple LP). Which is awesome.

07.19.2017 - by Steve
Pat's King of SteaksPhiladelphia
Cheesesteak

Yes. Yes, yes, of course. Yes, I got a fucking cheesesteak in Philadelphia. And yes, yes, it was at Pat's. Did you think I wouldn't? Did you think I might actually have some amount of self respect and taste? That maybe I'd try to find the "real" best cheesesteak in Philadelphia, or maybe find some scrapple, rather than be a sucker tourist who just goes and finds that corner that's been featured on every single food TV show ever produced, with Pat's on one side and Geno's on the other, hollering at their customers and putting cheese whiz on their sandwiches? Did you really think I might be better than that?

Look. I thought I was too. I did some research. I found a couple places that supposedly have the best cheesesteaks in town. But I only had a short amount of time to spend in Philly, and those other places were nowhere near any train stops. Plus, double look, I've never been to Philadelphia. I'm sorry, but I have to do this. If I didn't eat at Pat's or Geno's, I'd think about it my whole life. It's just one of those things. Every city has their local favorites, their perennial beloved food haunts that help define them. But I think Pat's and Geno's are more inextricably tied to Philadelphia than any other restaurants are to their respective cities. So to hop off the Septa and walk 10 minutes to Pat's (which I only picked because it was about 100 feet closer) is to truly see Philadelphia. I saw Independence Hall, I saw the Liberty Bell (through a window), and I ate a fucking Pat's cheesesteak.

I've had better.


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07.18.2017 - by Steve
WawaPhiladelphia
Hoagie

Here's a random dumb funny one! As a listener of Tom Scharpling's The Best Show on WFMU, I have been hearing for years about this mystical east coast convenience store chain called Wawa. Not simply a convenience store and occasionally a gas station, Wawa is well known for its hoagies, which are made fresh to order in store. It's like if every Super America had a full Jersey Mike's in the back. But beyond the minor novelty of it, these hoagies are by many accounts perhaps the best hoagies in the region. Which is crazy, because this is hoagie country!

So the Saturday of my trip left me with an entirely empty day, and I decided to hop a train to Philadelphia. And this meant one thing:I'm entering Wawa country. My day in Jersey was too far northeast for Wawas, apparently, so this was really my best chance. Luckily, there was one location in downtown Philadelphia within walking distance from Independence Hall (where I was hiding under trees to stay out of the rain). To my surprise, the ordering system was fully digital; you plugged your order into a touch screen, while someone behind the counter made the sandwiches in back. The process was painless enough, although I wish they offered more pre-curated sandwiches rather than make you pick each individual ingredient. Anyhow. I got basically an Italian, albeit with spinach and no pepperoni. It came out fairly quick, looked good enough. And it tasted... good. It was good. Not the best sandwich in the world, but certainly better than Subway. Maybe better than Jimmy Johns. Close to (my recent favorite) Jersey Mikes. Considering it was from the back of a convenience store, yeah, it was great! Was it worth the trip to Philadelphia? Hmm.

07.18.2017 - by Steve
Pizza PartyBrooklyn
Pizza

I had more pizza at a bar called Pizza Party, which is this close to being an annoyingly twee hipster name, but I think is actually fun and charming. Anyway, the pizza reminded me of our beloved 'Minnesota style' pizza, if that's actually a thing. It was pretty good I guess. I don't remember what else I had to say about the place. Anyway.


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07.18.2017 - by Steve
Xi'an Famous FoodsManhattan
Hand pulled noodles

On the recommendation of a friend, I stopped in to Xi'an Famous Foods, which I'd specify was in Chinatown as an appeal to realness, but in reality it's a minor chain in Manhattan and has 4 or 5 locations. So it may as well have been the Upper West Side. Anyway, Xi'an is famous for their hand-pulled noodles, which are so fresh and meticulously crafted that the restaurant puts a pop-up warning on their website that you should absolutely not order these noodles to go. And furthermore that if you insist on getting them to go, to please at least take a bite or two out of the container before leaving the restaurant if you plan on leaving any sort of Yelp review. The warnings are infamous enough that I had 3 different people ask me "Did you see the warnings?" when I mentioned I was going to eat there.

This sounds a little crazy, but I can appreciate it. I especially appreciate it after eating them, because these noodles are fucking amazing. I should mention that the actual dish I ordered was the cumin lamb. But while the lamb itself was tasty and spicy and cuminy and everything you'd want in a szechuan style meat dish, the noodles stole the show. I've never in my life been so impressed by a simple noodle. But they were a perfect combination of chewy and tender, with some actual richness of flavor that's usually absent from this sort of noodle, adding a perfect base to the spicy lamb surrounding it. You guys. You get it. They were awesome noodles.

07.18.2017 - by Steve
San LocoBrooklyn
Tacos

After the disappointment of La Lupe, I still had a taco jones to fix. San Loco did the trick. This is a tiny little take-out counter that advertises itself specifically as "Gringo-mex". Or as I like to call them: "Mom tacos." Interesting see a non-chain place specifically advertise this sort of Americanized, Taco Bell style taco as a feature rather than a bug. But I guess San Loco has been around for quite a while in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and had a good enough reputation. Anyway, I got the San Loco equivalent of a double decker taco (basically the most perfect fast food item ever created, in my opinion; a hard shell taco coated in refried beans and wrapped in a flour soft shell. Get one next time you're at Taco Bell. It's great). And hey, it was great! Ground beef and cheddar cheese and iceberg lettuce. Not trying to be a "real" taco, but absolutely satisfied me. Talk about authenticity all you want, but there's something to say about this global cultural exchange of ours.