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.

04.15.2018 - by Steve
Sidewalk KitchenU of M
Roast duck, bbq pork, ma-po

The (#problematic?) theory of Asian restaurants is that the more Asian people you see eating in one, the better the food probably is. Far be it from me to argue with science, but I will say this: Sidewalk Kitchen (why not Sidewok Kitchen??? Missed opportunity), located in that one corner of Stadium Village that's always had 2 or 3 random Chinese places that seem to cater to a large percentage of actual Chinese people, was full of Chinese students the night we went. It was a real 'sore thumb' situation for the two of us at table five. The menu seemed promising, although I worry a bit when a restaurant boats so many Szechuan and Hunan and Korean options. The food was just okay. There was some confusion about my order initially; I ordered the rice plate with duck and pork, and the waiter claimed that the kitchen said they couldn't serve that item, but then after some discussion with a manager and someone else in the kitchen, they decided they could, and when the plate came out, the pork was cold. Like, cold, not even room temperature. And crazy boney. As was the duck, although at least that was hot. Meanwhile, the ma-po (Szechuan dish with tofu and ground pork) had a very particular sadness to it, more of a watery orange color than the expected deep red, and full of freezer-aisle diced carrot cubes and peas. It tasted weird. It was all weird. The whole thing was weird. I still have hope for this place, because most of the stuff that everyone else in the restaurant was eating looked better than ours, so I think maybe we just got the wrong things. Maybe next time. Well, nah, maybe not.

04.15.2018 - by Steve
Spoon and StableDowntown Minneaoplis
Duck breast laab

My previous trip to the hottest newest bestest restaurant in the North Loop, Spoon and Stable, happened a year and a half ago on my birthday, when I sat by myself at the bar and ate as much food as I could afford. I went in skeptical but left impressed. But I went no further than 10 feet from the front door to the bar. This time was entirely different; a Sunday morning brunch with some out of town visitors, I saw that the restaurant is a good bit smaller than I first thought it was, and actually has some lovely natural light from the ceiling, and all in all isn't quite as annoying as I might have thought it was. I mean, it's still all white-tile-and-natural-wood-edison-bulb-in-industrial-lighting, leather-apron'd-barkeeps and denim-uniformed-server Pinterest-chic, but it's not that bad. What was bad, regretfully, was my food. The brunch menu was fairly diverse as these things go, and I ordered a duck breast laab salad with crispy wild rice and a duck egg. It just didn't work. The duck was tough, the wild rice was soft, and the whole thing was way, way too salty. Whatever flavors were in there were just overwhelmed by soy sauce or fish sauce or whatever they had in there. Meanwhile, nothing else I tasted between everyone else at my table was much better. And to be honest I don't really remember what those dishes were. The only great takeaway from the entire meal was the small plate of hash browns that they brought the table (every brunch spot should do this!), which were satisfyingly crispy, and were infused with a sort of garlicky oniony oil. They were great. Everything else was a big bummer. So while I still think I stand by Spoon and Stable based on my great birthday dinner, I'll go ahead and recommend you skip brunch.

04.03.2018 - by Steve
Hai HaiNortheast Minneapolis
Balinese chicken, Vietnamese crepes

If anyone has told you that omg Hai Hai is amazing, and you couldn't help but feel that they were conflating their excitement over another new and novel restaurant with actual quality... strike that from your mind. Because omg Hai Hai is amazing.