03.19.2018
The Decemberists
I'll Be Your Girl

I was going to say this is the worst Decemberists album, but then I remembered Hazards of Love exists, so I'm not very sure anymore.

10.09.2015
The Decemberists
Florasongs EP

Remember that new album the Decemberists put out earlier this year? Yeah, me neither. (Aww, Steve, that was mean. It wasn't bad!) Well this is a little post-LP EP, with a handful of songs that didn't make the cut of that album that was already seemingly full of songs that didn't make their cut from their previous album—which I honestly think was one of their best, and should've been their swan song. Anyhow, Florasongs isn't bad, nor is it particularly impressive or interesting. A few good songs that could've made good replacements for Beautiful World's clunkers, one clunker of its own, and a couple nice breezy sweet nothings. That's about it. Good enough!


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03.27.2015
The Decemberists
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

I'll write something here eventually.

06.04.2011
The Decemberists
The Crane Wife

Get this: The Crane Wife is actually pretty great. Wow. I guess I couldn't really appreciate it until I lived with the Hazards Of Love monstrosity for a couple years. Well played, Meloy.

01.23.2011
The Decemberists
The King Is Dead

What's funny is that the more I've listened to this album in the last few days, it hit me that this "new" "radio friendly" version of the Decemberists is actually closer to their very first EP, 5 Songs, than any of their ensuing full lengths. I could easily imagine an alternate universe where The King Is Dead was the major label debut of the band after some A&R guy discovered 5 Songs, as if the intervening seven years never happened, and "My Mother Was A Chinese Trapeze Artist" was just a one-off novelty, as opposed to the basis for the rest of their career. Also funny, when you listen to King and 5 Songs back to back is how the Decemberists have taken a similar route as Belle And Sebastian in transforming themselves from scrappy amateurs to impeccable studio vets; they may be the same band, but by god they can actually play their instruments now.

01.18.2011
The Decemberists
The King Is Dead

A breath of fresh air after Hazards of Love and The Crane Wife, that is for sure. Easily their most earnest work yet, albeit not nearly their best. A little overkill on the harmonica and pedal steel, as well. But still good. Good. As odd as it sounds, however, I'm struck by a feeling that this could very well be the last Decemberists album. I have no reason to believe that, and please don't go around giving them any ideas, but something about the vibe here makes me think that they've hit that, "Okay, we've accomplished everything and maybe it's time to move on" point. If I was in the band, I wouldn't know where to go from here. They did the build up to the prog rock opera (uh, twice), and now are doing the solid country rock studio band thing. Where else do they go? Their separate ways, that's where. Don't say I didn't warn you.

08.31.2010
The Decemberists
Castaways and Cutouts

Splendidezine (or just "Splendid," to remove the wonderfully anachronistic descriptor "e-zine" from the title) was once a competitor to the now-mighty Pitchfork, but called it quits back in 2005. It's funny to go back and look at the site, which is still online, nowadays. It's like a time capsule, stuck a half decade in the past, with outdated graphic design, and randomly loading reviews on the front page from bands you and I have never heard of, and will never hear of again. But in the upper right of the page is a link, still alive, to the last feature interview they every did, with Grizzly Bear, years before they became the indie powerhouse they currently are. And in a way, that's perfect, because it really sums up everything that was great about Splendid. They ignored trends, they reviewed everything they received, and they never gave anything a quantifiable grade. They simply described what the music sounded like, who it might appeal to, and what positive attributes it had. Nothing was panned, nothing was ripped, nothing was lionized. And best of all, they offered audio samples of every record. That doesn't sound like a big deal now, but back in 2002 it was practically unheard of. Even Pitchfork only recently started linking to samples. Splendid had one for every album, right there on the page (in RealAudio format. Talk about dated.) But all these things combined to make Splendid the best place to actually find good new music. Hell, they pointed me towards the Decemberists months before they were even on the radar at most other music sites. And now they're dead.

03.22.2010
The Decemberists
Always The Bridesmaid EP

"Valerie Plame" is still a great, great song. And listening to it today really made me long for the 'old' Decemberists, despite the fact that the song could probably be considered 'new.' (Are we looking at two Decemberists, like how we have two Metallicas? Pre-Crane Wife and post-Crane Wife? Seems fair to me.)

03.26.2009
The Decemberists
The Hazards Of Love

Well, it seems that they've done it. The Decemberists have released an album that I just plain don't like. You can read my previous post about the album if you really care about why I don't like it, because my opinion hasn't really changed since then. Hell, you could read just about every other Decemberists post on here, because the theme has remained the same: They're just a better band, and Colin Meloy a better songwriter, when they stick to more humble pop songs. I don't mean that to bash them or something; their "humble pop songs" are exponentially better than 99% percent of their peers'. But it seems to me that they've already proven with The Tain that they can do a hard rockin' conceptual song set, but have also proven with The Crain Wife that they maybe shouldn't stretch that into an entire full length. I'm already just about tired of listening to it, and I can't imagine coming back to it much in the future, which is something I can't say for any of their other releases. Oh well; six out of seven isn't too shabby, I guess.

03.24.2009
The Decemberists
The Hazards of Love

11 tracks into the new Decemberists record and I've yet to actually hear a song. Lots of intros, a couple choruses, a handful of bridges, and a vamp here and there, but nothing that I would qualify as a "song." If you told me 5 years ago that the Decemberists would release a dark, heavy, experimental rock opera, I would've taken an entire bottle of sleeping pills and set my alarm for March 2009, because it just sounds too perfect. But now that it's here... I don't know. At least I have my new Mastodon album to look forward to. I just hope it's not a collection of anachronistic folk pop ditties about sailors and scallywags.

12.07.2008
The Decemberists
Always The Bridesmaid: A Singles Series

After looking for weeks to find it, I finally came across the Decemberists' "Always A Bridesmaid" records at the Cheapo on Snelling. It's a series of three vinyl-only singles (and B-sides) that aren't on any other albums or EPs, and are well worth the somewhat ridiculous pricetag. They all have beautiful die-cut and silver leafed packaging, and (as usual) cool illustrations by Carson Ellis. But beyond all that, the music is all really solid--especially first song "Valerie Plame," which is probably the best song they've done since "The Sporting Life." Most of the songs really prove a point I made on my previous Decemberists post; for all the focus they've put lately on big "proggy" arrangements and epic, quirky historical English-major lyrics, they might be at their best when sticking to simple pop tunes with much simpler lyrical themes. I mean, really, would you rather spend your time listening to "The Infanta," or "Grace Cathedral Hill"? And no, the answer can't be "neither."

11.30.2008
The Decemberists
Castaways And Cutouts

Enough years have past now that I'm just going to go ahead and say it: I think Castaways and Cutouts is the Decemberists' best album. Yes, everything they've done since has all been excellent in its own right, but there's something about Castaways that lets it dodge some of the potholes that their later albums occasionally hit. Since it was their first album, there's a certain lack of self-consciousness that makes all of the ridiculous lyrics seem just a little more honest, and the arrangements are interesting, upbeat, but never overblown. Basically, they weren't trying to outdo themselves yet. Funny how when it came out, everything written about them compared them (favorably and otherwise) to Neutral Milk Hotel. And now, listening to the record years later, that comparison doesn't enter my mind for a second.

11.08.2018 - by Steve
Blue Ribbon Fried ChickenManhattan
Fried chicken sandwich

Hey! Look! Music & Food is officially 10 years old! That's fucking weird, right?

I'd recommend you don't go back into the archives and find my first official post on here. It's an embarrassing misreading of Randy Newman's "Sail Away." But more than that, it's a hopeful and optimistic misreading of the state of America in 2008. I'd been working on building this new music and food blog as an outlet to practice some nascent coding skills, and it just so happened that the site was ready to launch just a couple days after the beautiful and magic election night, when we all felt great and the future was wide open. But now, exactly 10 years later, that beauty and magic has been gutted by people who hate beauty and magic. But also there's no such thing as magic.

And also, holy shit, I live in New York now?? And this is my first official New York food post! And it's Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, which I hit up while running an errand in the East Village (because I now run errands in the East Village). It looks delicious, and is stocked with a number of great looking hot sauces and honeys. But just like the magic of November 2008, sometimes looks can be deceiving.

Mac and cheese was good though.

10.02.2018 - by Steve
Skyline ChiliAkron
Skyline chili

I finally did it. I ate Skyline Chili. And it's exactly as good as I imaged it might be.

09.04.2018 - by Steve
Potter'sDinkytown Minneapolis
Sausage roll

I think I've had a Potter's pasty from their food truck before, but I honestly can't say I remember much about it. But this weekend I finally got to their brick and mortar store (which is only a brick and mortar store in that they sell some food out of a window connected to their commissary kitchen in the basement of a building connected to the back side of a convenience store), and was duly impressed by their sausage roll. See, I'm a bit of an expert on sausage rolls; I went to England one time. So. Anyhow, these aren't quite as good as the rolls at Greggs (um if you've ever been to England like me you'll know what I mean, mate), and they don't serve them with HP Sauce (God save the Queen), but rather with a sort of tangy apple reduction, which I don't think quite worked with what was more of an Italian-style sausage than the traditional English breakfast sausage that you'd expect from a roll. But despite that, I fully enjoyed the roll, and have to say there's something very refreshing about a place in Minneapolis that just sells out of a basement window. It's the sort of secret-handshake "in the know" place that doesn't usually exist around here.

09.04.2018 - by Steve
MeyvnUptown Minneapolis
Bagel

Meyvn is the latest attempt to bring a 'Montreal style' deli to Minneapolis, and considering the fact that my bagel was served in a cardboard box with a salad and was somehow wet, and the fact that the interior is designed to look like a reclaimed barnwood retro futurelounge rather than, say, a Montreal deli, it will surely be the next Montreal style deli to close in Minneapolis.

08.22.2018 - by Steve
CampingGrand Marais
Knockoff Nando's chicken

We'd been thinking a lot about Nando's lately, the British peri peri chicken chain, which has become nearly as ubiquitously 'basic' in England as Chipotle is here. We ate it earlier this year during our trip out there, and it was legitimately delicious. Which wasn't totally a surprise, because even though it's almost become a punchline over there, it's still (like Chipotle) beloved by nearly everybody. So when it came time to find some good recipes for camping up on the North Shore, I got the idea to find a recipe for a Nando's grilled chicken facsimile. The one I found wasn't the traditional flavor (peri peri peppers being a little hard to come by in the upper midwest), but was Nando's bbq flavor. Basically a marinade with bbq sauce (cheating, I know), worscestershire, a bunch of garlic, hot sauce, etc. So the morning we left, I tossed some chicken in the marinade, let it linger in the cooler all day, then at night I tossed it right on the campfire grill. It was a little nerve-wracking for a while, since a wood campfire isn't terribly consistent. But after giving it a good blackening on the outside, I wrapped it in foil for another 10 minutes and prayed that it was cooking through. Upon opening up the foil, I was greeted with the most perfect looking chicken I've ever made. And then I tore off a piece, and my god it tasted as good as it looked. I can't say whether it actually tasted like Nando's or not, but it was some of the best anything I've ever grilled, camping or not. Ledge.

08.22.2018 - by Steve
BellecourWayzata
Escargot, short ribs

Did you know escargot is snails? Ick.

08.08.2018 - by Steve
OMCDuluth
Barbecue

I'm going to try to not be too critical of OMC because honestly, Duluth needs good places to eat. And not just good places to eat, but good places to eat that are away from the Canal Park / Fitgers continuum. This place is in a little business strip in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is cool and neighborhoody and up-and-coming and I didn't even know it existed until now. But also it's weird and gross, because this entire block is seemingly owned by the Bent Paddle Brewery, OMC included. So between OMC, and the "Detroit style" deli, and the cool ice cream place, you're basically just spending your night at a glorified brewery food truck lot. It's weird.

Oh also did I mention that OMC stands for "Oink, Moo, Cluck?" Yep.

So anyway, their barbecue is good. It all has that extra 'something' that makes it stand out from your standard barbecue, a little oddball seasoning here and there, some nutmeg maybe, who knows. And the pulled pork has that porchetta vibe that makes sense for the north country. My problem (as usual) comes because I'm a cheap jerk: It's just too expensive for what you get. The portions are decent-ish for a regular restaurant, but not for a bbq joint. That would maybe fly over in Canal Park, but this is a Locals Only street. It's not expensive real estate. You can't be charging this much for not all that much meat. Plus there's no bread! No bread! Just throw some Wonderbread on the plate, OMC! Help us out here! Plus, even though I enjoyed the little extra 'something' in the meats, they kept adding somethings into the sides, until it was all too much. They need to find some very simple, baseline flavors that you can pile all the good good meat on top of!

How bizarre.

07.29.2018 - by Steve
TerzoSouth Minneapolis
Duck breast, mushroom bolognese

Other than its occasionally outstanding Porchettaria sandwich window, I've never given Terzo much thought. I knew it was owned by the Broders people, and of course I love Broders Cucina and very much like Broders Pasta Bar, but something about Terzo always made me think "this isn't for me." Well so, we just tried to go to Broders Pasta Bar, and it was too long of a wait, and Broders Cucina sounded a little too basic for our fancy dinner needs. So we went to Terzo. And listen: It was one of the better "good" meals I've had in a while. This place is le-g-g-git, and should be included in any conversation about the best restaurants in this town, which I don't think it's been heretofore.

07.28.2018 - by Steve
Hamburguesa El GordoSouth Minneapolis
Tacos, hot dog

Hamberguesa El Gordo is a dream. It's exactly what this city needs more of.

07.24.2018 - by Steve
The Naughty GreekSt. Paul
Lamb

I hate that this place is called The Naughty Greek, I hate their logo, I hate the graphics on their wall, and I hate that they call it "Athenian street food." But this is honestly the best Greek food I've had in the cities. Wildly good.

07.23.2018 - by Steve
Mucci'sSt. Paul
Lasagna, donuts

A Mucci's review, in 3 parts.

Part I:
I live in St. Paul now. Maybe I've told you this. Less than a block from where I recently moved to—really more like on the back side of my block and down a few lots—is Mucci's, an Italian restaurant. Mucci's popped up a short time ago. A year? Two years? I don't know exactly, because it's St. Paul, and as I said, I didn't live in St. Paul before now. But Mucci's didn't exist before, and suddenly it exists. And it's weird. Because it should be a "good" restaurant; small corner space, no big annoying sign, quiet residential neighborhood which isn't quite to the point of being "up and coming" just yet, just trying to play it cool. But then, just as suddenly, the local grocery store chain is selling Mucci's frozen pizzas! This doesn't make sense. How can this place suddenly be selling frozen pizzas while also being a small, respectable little neighborhood Italian restaurant?

Part II:
You know that thing people say about eating at a good restaurant on a Sunday night? Where they say "You shouldn't eat at a good restaurant on a Sunday night"? I think maybe that might've been the problem. Because we first ate at Mucci's on a Sunday night, and it was rough. Undercooked garlic bread. Undercooked noodles. Lasagna that was both burnt and seemingly reheated from about 2 days previous. I think it all could've been good; not amazing, but good. But they seemingly just had the C-squad staff on for that Sunday night, and were just getting rid of Friday's lasagna. In short, it was a huge bummer.

Part III:
Did I mention I live in St. Paul now, just around the corner from Mucci's? Because another weird thing about the place that I learned from walking past the sandwich board outside is that they serve donuts on the weekends! Just like all the Italian restaurants in Italy! So even after the weird-to-bad experience on that Sunday night, they're still the closest place to get a donut on a Sunday morning. The first donut attempt was a minor letdown; much like many high-priced "good" donuts in the world, they just didn't cut it. They were weirdly wet, hard to eat, and not really worth the price. However, on the second donut attempt (really the third Mucci's attempt in general, which is incredible considering how hard they blew the first one), there was light. The parmesan cheese donut. We're talking just a regular cake donut, with a subtle glaze on it, not too sweet, and topped with sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan. I don't know if this is a thing that other donut places have tried, but something about the savory bite of the cheese on top of a just slightly sweet donut really, really worked. Really one of the best fancy donuts I've ever had. My only real gripe is that it's too big, and hard to eat much more than half of the donut, since the cheese gets rich. But dang, this donut was good enough to make me want to give Mucci's a fourth chance.