05.29.2019
The Shins
Oh Inverted World

Imagine a world where the Shins released Oh Inverted World and then broke up or disappeared or perished in a plane crash or imploded into a black hole or whatever else would lead them to not release any music anymore. Also maybe Zach Braff also found that same fate in that same black hole. Oh Inverted World would be legendary today. Sure, it's always been admired and lauded to an extent, but I think that the subsequent years of consistently okay-to-good Shins releases have obscured it.

Listen to this album with fresh ears. It's phenomenal. Everything about it is perfect, from the unique melodies (I love when a songwriter is able to find paths through chords that are fully their own, like musical fingerprints, which James Mercer does—or did—better than nearly anyone else in indie rock at the time), to beautifully expressionistic lyrics, 90% of which I have no idea what they even are to this day, simple instrumentation just barely twisted into a lo-fi psychedelic audio palette, flawless sequencing, upbeat jams, melancholy ballads, and a very pretty (albeit very early 00s) cover. It's all so simple, yet composed and performed so beautifully that it becomes its own (inverted?) world.

I wrote something like this in my post on the last Shins album, but to sum up: the Shins never went Full Weezer. They haven't embarrassed themselves, they haven't released any duds or genre experiments or collaborations with Billy Ray Cyrus. But there's been a slow dulling of the edges, that started all the way back with their follow up to this one. Things got shinier, the simplicity disappeared into studio perfection, and when that became too boring and they tried to move back into scarier territory, they'd seemingly gotten too good to accidentally create a work of transcendence like Oh Inverted World.

This has never been my favorite album, or even on my all time top 10 (if I was to make such a list). I have no particular emotional bonds with it, despite listening to it a lot in college, but it's not a specific nostalgia trip for me. But when I listen to it now, it's like a hot knife into my ribs. It's so pure and good. I've never broken down crying listening to it, but I wouldn't be surprised if that happens at least once by the time I'm 70.

03.12.2017
The Shins
Heartworms

I don't know what to do with this new Shins album, and I don't know what to do with the Shins. I keep waiting for them to release something that even approaches Oh Inverted World, and I just keep waiting, and then I realize I've been waiting for 16 years. It's not going to happen. And yet they've managed not to go full-Weezer (aka full-Simpsons) and release a bunch of embarrassing garbage. Everything they've done has had an air of quality. But I just do... not... care... anymore. But I'll go out and buy their next one anyway and go through this all again.

03.30.2012
The Shins
Port of Morrow

I don't know how much I have to say about this new Shins record. Well, actually, I do know how much I have to say about it, which is: a lot. But It's all pointless rambling nonsense that has nothing to do with the record, and everything to do with everything else surrounding it, and the Shins, and the career arc of the Shins, and Zac Braff and domestic abuse and taco trucks and Dangermouse and who knows what else. I mean, just go back in time to when Oh Inverted World came out and nobody really gave a shit, short of an 8.0 Pitchfork review, which is very much worth going back to read in these tumultuous times of latter-day Shins. Back then they were just a poppy, sort of low-fi indie band, with a singer compared to Jeremy Enigk and a unique sense of melody and lots of tremolo. There were half-assed comparisons to The Kinks and The Beach Boys that proved as off-base as the Neutral Milk Hotel references that followed The Decemberists in their early days, but ultimately it sounded like, and only like, The Shins. It was humble, but it was honest and sort of perfect, really. But now, instead of sounding like and only like The Shins, or even the Kinks or the Beach Boys, they sound like Nothing. Or even worse, Everything. It's all bombast and ephemera, and not a single song that is essential to the Shins canon. Even Wincing The Night Away had one or two. Here, we get "For A Fool," which gets close I guess? And the last song is pretty nice. But you could pull this whole album out of their discography, and I wouldn't miss it. Same goes for Wincing. The confusing part is that it's not bad! Really. Nothing here is poor in any sense. None of it is embarrassing, or totally off mark, or even skippable. And it has the bonus qualification of being back-loaded, the back half being quite a bit superior to the front half, which is pretty rare. It's a nice album, and I have no use for it. But really, go get out your copy of Oh Inverted World and give it a whirl. Don't they sound like the kind of band that disappears after one release and gets everyone wishing, years later, that they hadn't?


(1)
09.05.2010
The Shins
Oh Inverted World

With enough time for hindsight and comparisons having elapsed, I'm ready to declare that Oh Inverted World is the best thing the Shins have released. And it's pretty safe to say they aren't going to top it. Also, Zach Braff.

08.17.2019 - by Steve
OlmstedBrooklyn
Dry rubbed scallops with blueberry, watermelon sushi, other stuff

I've got to tell you about these scallops. Shit, man. Seriously. Probably—no, easily—the best thing I've eaten in New York. In fact it's probably the best thing I've eaten anywhere in the last couple years.

So the restaurant is Olmsted, up nearby-ish in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and while it's been around for 2 or 3 years now, it kept showing up on every Best Restaurant list I read. It's won James Beard stuff, Michelin stuff (okay, they don't have a star, but they're on the recommended list!). It's basically just become the restaurant in Brooklyn. And since it was Erin's birthday, and we've barely even touched the surface of the surface of this city's 'good' restaurants, this was a perfect opportunity.

Okay, okay, I'm going to scrap the rest of the intro because I seriously have to tell you about these fucking scallops

You know that magical moment in The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy opens the door of her house after the tornado and suddenly the world is in full color? Or that part halfway through Elliott Smith's "Sweet Adeline" where he's playing a nice acoustic Elliott Smith song and then suddenly every instrument in the world comes in an you're soaring in the sky and everything is beautiful? More specifically, you know that stupid moment in commercials or cooking shows where someone takes a bite of some food and suddenly their eyes snap open and their head rears back and they can't contain themselves and how wonderfully delicious that bite of food was, even though it's always contrived nonsense because nobody ever does that? These scallops made me do that.

I don't remember how the menu describes them exactly, but basically what we're talking about is your standard scallops, but dry rubbed and grilled, served with some combination of a blueberry (smoked blueberry?) reduction, some sweet corn, chanterelle mushrooms, and another cream-based pan sauce of some sort. Oh and they're served as a kabob atop a husk of a leek or something. But what happened is, we ordered a bunch of small plates, it was all very good, and then the scallops show up. They look good, the sauces look a little dull or dark maybe, but whatever. So I take one off the kabob, run it through a little bit of the sauce, get a mushroom and a corn kernel on there, and I, you know, take a bite. The first thing I get is the blueberry. It's very sweet, very blueberry-y, I'm prepared to say "weird" and move on. But then, a fraction of a second later, Dorothy opens that sepia door and everything is technicolor and the world is a beautiful place. And I honest to god nearly dropped my fork, eyes snapped open, mouth agape in a stupid smile, and all I could do was laugh.

It's so good you guys!

You get it. I won't go on. Anyway, the rest of everything we had was very very good as well. You're probably wondering about the watermelon sushi, which was exactly what it sounds like but probably my least fave of all our plates. It's a hit with the public at large though.

Oh and I just read the chef here used to be Jerry Seinfeld's personal chef. Nice work if you can get it.

08.07.2019 - by Steve
MeMe'sBrooklyn
Brunch, meatloaf, chili oil eggs

MeMe's is a cool Brooklyn diner that has a decent brunch. They serve a little bowl of dry cereal before your meal which I thought was going to be annoying but it was actually pretty satisfying. They have nice paintings on their walls and they have cake.

08.07.2019 - by Steve
Island ExpressBrooklyn
Jerk chicken

I live about a mile west of all the Caribbean food I could ever want to eat, and I barely ever eat it. This is totally my own fault of course, but considering how much I love it (have I ever raved to you about Harry Singh's on Nicollet?), it bums me out that I haven't really made the most of it. But I did recently stop at one of the better rated places, a counter service place called Island Express. According to the big graphic designed graphics on the walls (it seems like Island Express came into some investors recently), they serve Guyanese food. I'd try to tell you what differentiates Guyanese from Jamaican or Trinidadian, but guess what I have no idea. But their menu was what you might expect; jerk chicken and oxtail and some curry and different greens and patties as sides. I was feeling straight up jerk, and was fully happy with it. A big pile of dark meat on rice and peas with some mustard pepper hot sauce and some spinach on the side. Only about 98 more jerk restaurants on Flatbush to try before I pick the best.

07.30.2019 - by Steve
Di Fara PizzaBrooklyn
Pizza

See item #3.

07.29.2019 - by Steve
Hudson & CharlesManhattan
Roast beef sandwich

This is the best sandwich I've had in New York, and seriously, I don't remember where I got it. It was a sort of bougie artisanal-type butcher shop on the Upper West Side (or was it just in the high 50s of Midtown?), and I've been looking all over Google Maps to figure it out, but I think it just disappeared. It's the Brigadoon of sandwich shops. But anyway, it was a roast beef with arugula and horseradish—very much like Clancy's but not quite up to that god-status level—and it was a beautiful reprieve from the endless parade of Boar's Head cold cuts that this city usually offers.

If I figure out where I got it, I'll be sure to let you know.

UPDATE: Hudson & Charles. That's the name of the place. It's on 86th and Amsterdam. There you go.